If you have been in a rear-end car accident, you are probably wondering who is at fault in a rear-end collision, what legal action you can take, and if you are entitled to compensation. Normally the rear vehicle is liable in a rear-end collision, but there are certain circumstances where the lead driver could be at fault. Fault in situations where the lead driver caused the accident or partially caused the accident can be difficult to prove and often require finding enough evidence to prove your car accident claim.
Why Do Rear-End Collisions Happen?
Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of car accidents. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shown that rear-end accidents make up 29% of all car accident types that have severe injuries or fatalities. The majority of rear-end accidents are caused by the driver of the rear vehicle following the vehicle in front too closely and not leaving enough room to safely stop. Some of the most common reasons for rear-end car accidents are:
Distracted driving. Eating, talking, texting, reaching for items, or adjusting the GPS can cause the rear driver to not brake with enough time to avoid hitting the car in front of them.
Aggressive driving. This includes actions such as tailgating and speeding, actions that limit the amount of space between vehicles and limit reaction time.
Hazardous weather conditions. Conditions like heavy rain and standing water, snow, or ice can cause rear-end accidents, especially when drivers are going too fast for the conditions.
Driver fatigue. Driving while tired causes drivers to misjudge and be inattentive.
Drunk driving. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol affects the driver’s ability to drive safely.
When Is the Lead Driver At Fault?
Though the driver of the rear car in a rear-end collision is usually at fault, there are situations where the lead driver is at fault. Some situations where the lead driver could be at fault are:
Reversing into the rear car. If the lead driver reverses into the car behind them, the lead driver is most likely liable.
Aggressive driving. Sometimes when the lead driver is driving aggressively or dangerously, such as abruptly switching lanes, changing lanes too close to other vehicles, and/or failing to signal before turning or changing lanes.
Malfunctioning brake lights. When brake lights are not working properly, it prevents the drivers of cars behind that vehicle from seeing the lead car and judging how far away the lead car is.
Sudden braking or brake checking. Brake checking occurs when the lead driver intentionally puts on their brakes to surprise or intimidate the rear driver. This causes the rear driver to either brake quickly or swerves to avoid a collision. Brake checking can even lead to criminal charges for reckless driving.
What Are the Consequences of a Rear-End Collision?
The main consequences of a rear-end collision are injury or even death. Reports from the Insurance Information Institute (III) show that for the year 2017, rear-end accidents accounted for 7.2% of car crash fatalities. The injuries sustained in different types of car accidents are mostly similar, but rear-end collisions tend to produce more forward-backward movement. Some of the most common injuries in a rear-end collision are:
Whiplash and neck injuries. Whiplash is probably the injury most associated with rear-end accidents. Whiplash occurs when the head and neck are jerked forward, causing damage to the nerves, tissue, and even the vertebrae and upper spine. This causes pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion in the neck.
Airbag and other seat belt-related injuries. Bruising and even cracked or broken bones are common injuries related to airbags and seatbelts. Common soft tissue injuries are sprains, cuts or contusions, and bruising, which causes significant pain and swelling.
Back and rib injuries. Common back injuries are slipped discs or other damage to the spinal cord. Car accidents can also injure the spinal vertebrae, discs, and nerves in the spine. All of these back and spine injuries can cause severe neck and back pain and, in some cases, lifetime disability.
Brain injury and headaches. Headaches are a common side effect of concussions. A concussion happens when the head is jerked forward, injuring the brain. Other symptoms of a concussion are fatigue, dizziness, confusion, memory issues, and loss of balance. More serious trauma to the head can cause traumatic brain injuries, which have long-lasting pain and side effects.
The other major consequence of a collision is damage to your vehicle. Depending on the severity of the crash, this could range from dents or dings to multi-car pile-ups and a vehicle that has been completely totaled.
How Do I Prove Who is at Fault in a Rear-End Collision Case?
In a rear-end collision, you are trying to prove that the other driver acted negligently. To show that the other driver was negligent, you will have to prove the four elements of a negligence claim:
Duty of care. You must show that the driver owed you a duty of reasonable care. This is not normally very difficult because drivers owe a duty to drive competently and safely to the other motorists on the road.
Breach of the duty. You will need to show that the driver acted unreasonably, or breached their duty of care to you. This can be proven by demonstrating any of the careless or reckless actions listed as reasons for rear-end accidents above.
Causation.You must prove that the other driver’s actions caused your accident.
Damages. You need to show that you suffered actual harm as a result of the accident. This harm can be your injuries and/or the damage to your vehicle, as well as any medical bills or lost wages associated with the accident.
What Actions Should I Take if I’ve Been in a Rear-End Collision?
You should always collect proof of the accident immediately afterward. Some important actions for you to take are:
Take pictures of your vehicle and the other vehicle or vehicles involved.
Taking pictures of the scene of the accident.
Getting statements from witnesses.
Write down your memory of exactly what happened.
What Evidence Do I Need to Prove Fault?
Evidence is critical to the success of a rear-end accident claim. Some of the most important evidence that you and your lawyer will need to gather is:
The accident report includes records of the severity and damage to the vehicles.
Eyewitness testimony from drivers and pedestrians.
Photos of the vehicles, the scene of the accident, and your injuries after the crash.
Your medical history.
Traffic camera footage, if it’s available.
Dash camera footage, if it’s available.
Your account of what happened during the accident.
Your account of how the accident affected your life (like mental distress, medical bills from the injuries, or losing wages).
Why Should I Choose Regan Zambri Long, PLLC for my Rear-End Collision Case?
If you want help determining who is at fault in a rear-end collision, one of the many Washington, DC car accident lawyers on our team can help. Hiring an experienced car accident attorney will take the burden of proving your case off your shoulders. Our team of lawyers will build your case and gather all the evidence necessary to win your claim and secure the compensation you are entitled to receive. Call Regan Zambri Long today for a free case evaluation.
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