Who is at Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

Feb 1, 2024 | Right Path Law Group
Who is at Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

Rear-end car accidents are the most common type of crash. Even though these accidents happen every day in large numbers, they can still be severe and sometimes deadly. You may have suffered permanent injuries that can impact you for the rest of your life. If someone else was to blame for the car accident, they owe you compensation for your injuries.

Before getting a settlement check, you must prove that someone else was to blame for the accident. The assumption is that drivers exercise reasonable care when they stop in time to avoid hitting the car in front of them. Therefore, if a vehicle hits you, it is easier to demonstrate liability for the crash.

However, you still benefit from the services of an experienced car accident lawyer because the insurance company may try to find a way to shift the blame onto you. Another battlefield in a car accident claim is when you are trying to negotiate compensation with the insurance companies. They may willingly concede liability without too much effort on your part, only to nickel-and-dime you for the entire rest of your case. There is no such thing as a straightforward insurance claim that results in total compensation for your injuries.

Causes of Rear-End Car Accidents

Who is at Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

Rear-end car accidents are a greater risk these days and can happen whenever you leave the house. You cannot control another driver’s actions when they get behind the wheel, and as vigilant and defensive as you are when driving, someone else may be inattentive and aggressive. Further, they may not have both eyes on the road, with their mobile device in their hands or lap.

Rear-end car accidents comprise as many as 40 percent of car accidents, even though they have a lower fatality rate than other types of car accidents.

Common causes of rear-end car accidents include:

  • Distracted driving, which is often the result of cell phone use behind the wheel
  • Tailgating or not allowing enough following distance between cars
  • Not properly maintaining the brakes that will enable a driver to stop in time
  • Speeding, which reduces the amount of time that a driver has to stop and avoid an accident
  • Reckless driving, where one driver aggressively changes lanes into the path of another driver

What to Do After a Rear-End Car Accident

After you have been in a rear-end car accident, you should do the following:

  • Seek immediate medical attention to diagnose and treat your injuries. The most common rear-end car accident injury is whiplash, which occurs when your head suddenly snaps forward while the rest of your body remains still. Whiplash can cause severe neck and back injuries, and it can even result in a traumatic brain injury. However, you may not feel any pain or effects until the days or weeks after the accident, so it is crucial to be vigilant about your health.
  • Hire an experienced car accident lawyer to begin the legal process of seeking financial compensation for your injuries. An attorney can protect your legal rights when the insurance company tries to step on them. Insurance companies may shift into overdrive right after the accident to keep you from getting all the money you deserve. Once they see you have a tough attorney on the job, they know they must treat you differently.
  • Do what you can to both prepare for the legal process and avoid mistakes that can set your case back. Do not post or say anything about your accident. Also, do not speak with the other driver’s insurance company because they may try to trap you into giving a statement that can compromise your case. Even if you do not provide a formal statement, you can still say something that may undercut your case.

How Insurance Companies View Rear-End Car Accidents

In the days following your rear-end car accident, one or both drivers may try to file a claim with the insurance company, seeking financial compensation for the accident. This filing will begin a long and complex process that may result in monetary compensation. Usually, one driver is at fault for the accident, and their insurance company will need to pay for the other driver’s damages, up to the amount of the policy limit. Even though rear-end crashes may seem like garden variety, they can be complicated.

There Is a Presumption of Fault in Rear-End Car Accident Cases

There is a presumption of fault in a rear-end car accident. In most cases, the insurance companies will assume that the driver of the rear car is to blame for the accident unless that driver can bring evidence that disproves that presumption. Note that a presumption is not the same thing as automatic liability. Although it may be difficult for the driver of the rear car to disturb the presumption, it is theoretically possible. If you were driving the trailing vehicle, and you believe that the driver of the front car was at fault, you should at least explore the possibility of financial compensation.

The Rear Car Driver Is Not Always at Fault for the Accident

There are some ways that the front car driver may be legally responsible for the accident, and the most common reason is that they suddenly cut off or stopped short in front of the other driver. These days, drivers are more distracted, and they may not see a stop sign, red light, or car in front of them until the very last second because they are looking down at their phones. They compensate by jamming on their brakes to avoid running a traffic signal or crashing into the car in front. However, the car behind them had little warning and was unable to stop in time.

How You Can Prove that the Front Car Driver Was at Fault

The rear car driver must prove that the front driver cut them off or suddenly stopped. It can be challenging to demonstrate this to the satisfaction of an insurance company or the jury. You will need to gather evidence that shows what the driver did, including:

  • Witness testimony from people who saw the crash
  • An analysis of the skid marks at the scene of the crash
  • Pictures from the scene of the accident
  • Dashcam or traffic camera footage
  • Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert
  • The report from the police officer who showed up at the scene (although this evidence may have limited utility)

Lawyers May Not Always Take Cases from Front Car Drivers

First, you need to find a lawyer willing to take your case. Lawyers work on a contingency basis, meaning that you only pay them if you have a successful result in your case. They know they will be left empty-handed if you do not win, and they might miss out on other jobs that might have resulted in payment. You need to persuade a lawyer that your case can succeed to get them to represent you.

The Insurance Company May Still Try to Blame the Front Car Driver

Principles of personal injury law may still entitle you to some compensation, even if you were driving the rear car. The insurance companies will confer after the accident to determine who was liable and may decide that both drivers share the responsibility for the accident. Thus, both drivers can get compensation for the accident, depending on the state’s law for apportioning negligence. Alternatively, the driver who was hurt may receive less payment than they would have.

Accident Victims Always Need to Fight the Insurance Company

dealing with insurance company after rear-end accident

You need to go to battle against the insurance companies. It is easy for them to apply the standard presumption of liability because they do not have to do any further work, which will save them money. You will face a skeptical and hostile audience when claiming that the rear-ended driver is at fault for the accident.

However, you can keep the pressure on the insurance company. Just because something is a presumption does not mean that it will automatically hold up under scrutiny in every possible circumstance. You can always continue to fight the insurance companies if you believe that they have reached the wrong conclusion in your accident. If you are not getting a satisfactory resolution, you can always take your case to court and let the jury decide.

The same goes if you were the driver of the front car, and you believe the insurance company is wrongfully blaming you for the accident. You always have a legal right to your day in court after a car accident, and the insurance company’s determination is not the ending point in your case. You can always file a lawsuit and provide your evidence to the jury.

Compensation in a Rear-End Car Accident

You will receive total financial compensation for your injuries if you demonstrate fault in a rear-end car accident. Your settlement check will pay you for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Emotional distress

Just because you have suffered whiplash, which is a common injury, does not mean that you will automatically receive a small settlement check for your injuries. You are entitled to be paid based on how you have suffered after the rear-end car accident. Whiplash may be a much more severe injury than you think, causing you symptoms and physical difficulties in the long term. When you believe that you may have turned a corner towards recovery, the symptoms can flare up again, requiring more medical treatment.

How Insurance Companies Try to Minimize Settlements

When you are in a rear-end accident, you can pursue compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, be aware that insurance companies are not always on your side. In fact, they often try to minimize settlements to protect their own profits.

One way insurance companies try to minimize settlements is by disputing liability. They may argue that you were partially or fully at fault for the accident, which can significantly reduce the amount of compensation you are entitled to. Your lawyer can gather as much evidence as possible to prove the other driver’s negligence and strengthen your case.

Another tactic insurance companies use is downplaying the extent of your injuries. They may try to argue that your injuries are not as severe as you claim or that they were pre-existing conditions. Having an experienced attorney on your side can make all the difference. They can help you gather medical records, consult with medical experts, and build a strong case to demonstrate the true impact of the accident on your health and well-being.

Additionally, insurance companies often try to pressure accident victims into accepting quick settlement offers. They may offer a low amount of money upfront, hoping that you will be tempted to accept it and close the case. However, these initial offers are usually far below what you are entitled to and may not cover all of your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. Consult an attorney before accepting any settlement offers to ensure you are being fairly compensated for your injuries and losses.

Hire a Car Accident Lawyer to Lead the Fight on Your Behalf

Insurance companies do not care about you and your circumstances and are trying to get off the hook for as little money as possible. You will need to fight hard to get the compensation that you deserve. The best way to put up the fight you need is to hire an experienced attorney at the very beginning of your legal case. Refrain from approaching insurance companies alone, thinking you have an easy case, only to come back to them with a lawyer when you realize they are playing hardball. By then, you may have already compromised your legal position.

You Do Not Need to Pay a Car Accident Attorney Upfront

Pierre Prialé, Attorney for Car Accident in Fairfax
Pierre Prialé, Car Accident Lawyer

When you hire a lawyer, you do not need to come up with any money to give them. Other lawyers will ask you to pay them a retainer upfront to cover future legal expenses. However, a personal injury lawyer only receives payment when you win your case. Without a successful outcome, you will not owe them anything for their time and effort; thus, you do not have any risk of hiring an attorney. You’re mistaken if you think you will pocket more money by negotiating your claim. Study after study shows that you will obtain a better financial result for yourself when you get legal help.

Seek a free case evaluation with a car accident lawyer near you today. Never delay, as time is of the essence.