Rear-end collisions are among the most common type of car accident . Rear-end collisions are one of a few types of accidents in which there is usually “no-doubt” liability, which means the other driver is almost always at fault. If someone has hit your vehicle from behind in an accident, it’s unlikely that you will be found liable — but not impossible.
Why Do Rear-End Collisions Have “No-Doubt” Liability?
If someone’s vehicle is hit from behind, the other driver is nearly always found responsible no matter why the first driver slowed down or stopped. This is because basic traffic law requires a driver be able to come to a safe stop if the vehicle in front of them slows down or stops, even suddenly. If the driver can’t come to a safe stop and crashes into the car ahead of them, there is the assumption the driver was not driving safely and maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles.
Damages and Liability in a Rear-End Crash
Damages also tell an important story and contribute to establishing liability in rear-end collisions. The damages in these cases can prove what happened in the crash. If one vehicle has a damaged front end and another vehicle has a damaged rear end, there will be no doubt about the circumstances of the accident.
What Happens with a Multiple Vehicle Accident?
In complicated cases involving rear-end collisions, two cars may be pushed into each other when a third car strikes the middle car, forcing the vehicle into the rear end of the car ahead of it. In these cases, the driver of the third vehicle will be liable for the rear-end collision, even though that vehicle did not actually strike the damaged car from behind. The drivers of the first and middle cars can file claims against the third vehicle driver’s insurance company.
In another example, imagine a driver collides with the rear end of the vehicle ahead of her because another driver caused the first car to stop suddenly. In this case, the driver who rear-ended the car may have a claim against the driver who caused the first car to slow down or stop.
Is a Driver Struck From Behind Ever Liable?
There are some cases in which someone who is rear-ended to be found liable for the accident, although it’s not common. This is most likely to occur when the driver’s negligence contributed to the accident. For example, if the driver’s brake lights were not functioning and this contributed to being rear-ended, the driver can be found at least partially at fault. The same may be true if the struck vehicle had a blown tire and stopped in the traffic lane instead of moving to the shoulder.
Sometimes neither the rear vehicle or first vehicle driver are responsible for the accident. This is most common when road hazards contribute to a collision. If the driver behind you hit a large pothole in the road, lost control of their vehicle, and collided with your vehicle, the local municipality responsible for road maintenance may be to blame.
There are even cases in which a car driving up a hill stalls and starts moving backwards, colliding with the vehicle behind it. In this case, the driver wasn’t actually rear-ended but struck another vehicle “head-on” but in reverse. Rear-end collisions that happen because the front vehicle was defective may have even more complicated liability issues as it’s possible for the vehicle manufacturer to be found liable.
In general the most common scenarios in which the rear-ended driver can be found at least partially responsible include:
- The driver got a flat tire but did not pull over or use the hazard lights
- The driver had malfunctioning brake lights
- The driver stopped suddenly to make a turn but did not turn
- The driver reversed suddenly
Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been involved in a rear-end collision, it’s important to seek legal representation if damages or liability are not clear in your case. While you are most likely not liable for being rear-ended, there are some cases in which you can be found partially at fault for damages. Contact a Los Angeles car accident attorney today.
There are many ways in which a traffic accident can happen, but rear-end collisions are among the most common in California. Unlike many accidents, rear-end accidents are usually classified as “no-doubt” liability. This means the rear driver is virtually always at fault. If someone hits your car from behind, you are unlikely to be liable under the law, but there are some cases in which you can be found partially or even fully liable for the accident.
“No-Doubt” Liability in Rear-End Accidents
When someone’s car is struck from behind, the rear driver is virtually always considered liable regardless of why the first driver slowed down or even stopped in the road. This is because California traffic law requires all drivers to maintain a safe distance to be able to come to a safe stop if the vehicle ahead of them slows or stops, even a sudden stop. If someone rear-ends you, there is an automatic assumption that they were not maintaining a safe distance.
Liability and Damages
The damages in any traffic accident tell a story of how the accident occurred and contribute to establishing liability. This is especially true in rear-end collisions. In these cases, one vehicle has a damaged rear end while the other car has a damaged front end. The damages tell a clear story about the circumstances of the accident and there will be no way to dispute what happened and who hit whom.
Multiple Vehicle Accidents and Rear-End Liability
Liability can become a bit complicated with rear-end accidents if more than two vehicles are involved. For example, two cars can be pushed into each other if a third vehicle strikes the car in the middle. This would force the rear driver to rear-end the driver ahead of him. In such cases, the third vehicle driver is held liable for the rear-end collision, even though the third vehicle didn’t even hit the first vehicle from behind. The drivers of the first and second cars can file claims against the third driver’s insurance policy for damages and injuries.
In a second example, who is liable if a driver rear-ends a vehicle ahead of him because a third vehicle caused the first car to stop suddenly? In this case, the driver who rear-ended the other car can have a claim against the driver who caused the first car to stop in the first place.
When is a Rear-Ended Driver Liable?
While rare, sometimes someone who is rear-ended is found partially or fully liable for the accident. This usually happens when the driver’s negligence contributed to the collision in some way. Examples may include brake lights that were not functioning and contributed to the rear driver being unable to determine the vehicle was slowing or stopped or the first driver stopping in the traffic lane with a blown tire instead of moving safely to the shoulder of the road.
In some cases, neither the first nor rear driver are liable for the accident. This can happen if road conditions led to the accident. If you are rear-ended because the driver behind you lost control of their vehicle due to a pothole, the municipality may be liable for damages, not either driver.
Another example of a less-common circumstance involves a vehicle stalling uphill and rolling backwards, colliding with the vehicle driving behind it. While the damage will be to the front of the “rear-ended” vehicle and technically be considered a head-on collision, it’s really a rear-end collision in reverse. Liability can be complicated in these cases because the first vehicle owner may be liable for failing to maintain their vehicle or the manufacturer may be at fault for faulty parts.
As a general rule, the following are the most common cases in which the rear-ended driver will be found at least partially at-fault for the accident:
- The driver had malfunctioning brake lights
- The driver stopped without warning for a turn but did not make the turn
- The driver suddenly went into reverse
- The driver got a flat tire but did not use hazard lights or pull over safely to the shoulder
Contact an Experienced LA Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been hurt in a rear-end collision, it’s vital to seek legal counsel as soon as possible if liability is not clear cut. The good news is the other driver is almost always responsible for a rear-end collision, but this is not always the case. A car accident lawyer in Los Angeles can help you protect your rights and build your claim.