Who is at Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

Most people believe the rear driver is always at fault in a rear-end accident. The rear driver is not always at fault. Sometimes the front driver carries the liability for damages in a rear-end crash. This might be the case if the front driver was driving under the influence, backs into the rear car, brake checks the rear car, or drives with broken taillights. If the front driver causes the accident, he or she is responsible for damages to the rear driver.

When the Driver in Front is at Fault

If anyone ever asks you, “Is the rear-end driver always at fault?” your answer should be a resounding “No” until you speak with an NYC car accident attorney. When the police respond to the accident scene, they will try to determine who is at fault in a rear-end accident. The police investigation will try to show who was negligent – the negligent driver is liable for paying others’ damages.

To determine if a driver’s actions or inactions were negligent, you must be able to show that:

  • The at-fault driver owed a duty of care to others on the road;
  • The at-fault driver breached the duty of care because of his or her negligent behavior;
  • The at-fault driver’s negligence caused the victim to be injured or killed; and
  • The victim suffered damages as a result of the injuries or death of a loved one.

Regardless of whether the front or rear driver is at fault, proving negligence is the same.

Reasons for Rear-End Collisions

In most cases, the rear driver causes a rear-end accident. Common causes of rear-end accidents include:

  • The front driver pulls out in front of another vehicle, which then rear-ends the front driver.
  • Unexpectedly slamming on the brakes.
  • Backing into the vehicle behind you.
  • Brake checking.
  • Driving with broken brake lights.
  • Following too closely/tailgating.
  • Speeding, especially excessive speeding.
  • A third driver rear-ends the rear driver, who then rear-ends the front driver.
  • Slippery roads.
  • Inclement weather, including the sun shining in the face of a driver.
  • Faulty brakes, which could be the fault of the brake manufacturer, the vehicle manufacturer (if it is a new vehicle), or the driver, if he does not properly maintain his vehicle.

Avoiding Rear-End Crashes

Drivers can avoid rear-end crashes by following traffic rules and regulations and by increasing the distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. At certain times, drivers should increase the distance between their car and a car in front of them even more than recommended, including:

  • When driving at night, especially when visibility is very low because the street has few or no street lights.
  • When the roads are wet, snowy, or icy.
  • When the driver’s vehicle is heavy, such as when driving a loaded pickup truck or a loaded commercial vehicle.
  • When driving on loose gravel.
  • When driving in heavy traffic.
  • During traffic jams that cause stop-and-go traffic.
  • When the driver knows the brakes on the vehicle are soft.
  • Driving while distracted – the rear driver could look up to see traffic stopped in front of him or her. If the distracted driver is the front driver in the same scenario, suddenly hitting the brakes could cause the rear driver to hit the front driver.

Who is Most Often at Fault in a Rear-End Collision when Multiple Vehicles Are Involved?

A lead driver and the rear-most driver could be at fault in a rear-end crash with multiple vehicles involved. If a driver has to stop quickly because another vehicle pulled out in front of him, or if several vehicles suddenly wreck in front of the lead driver, causing the lead driver to stop quickly, it could cause one or more vehicles following him to rear-end into the vehicles in front of them, even if they were not tailgating.

If several drivers are tailgating and the lead driver has to stop quickly, then the rear driver directly behind the lead driver is usually at fault, even if she gets rear-ended, though if everyone was tailgating, they all share in the liability for the accident.

Finally, if a distracted driver rear-ends the middle driver, who then rear-ends the lead driver, the distracted driver is liable for damages to both drivers in front of him.

Who is at Fault in a Car Accident with Rear-Ending by an Uninsured Driver?

If the uninsured or underinsured driver caused the rear-end wreck, the uninsured driver is at fault. However, it’s hard to collect damages from an uninsured driver unless that driver is rich – and that is usually not the case. Because New York is a no-fault state, you could recover damages from your insurance policy, but that limits the damages you could recover.

In 2019, 4.1 percent of New York’s drivers were uninsured. While that is significantly lower than the state with the highest number of uninsured drivers – Mississippi, with 29.4 percent uninsured drivers – it is still significant enough so that you could be involved in a rear-end wreck with an uninsured driver. Though uninsured motorist insurance is not required, it is a good idea to have it.

Recovering Damages After a Rear-End Collision

If the other driver is at fault or mostly at fault for the rear-end collision, you could recover economic and non-economic damages, including:

  • Past and future medical expenses.
  • Lost wages.
  • Loss of earning capacity.
  • Replacement of personal property.
  • Funeral and other expenses related to the death of a loved one in a rear-end accident.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Loss of quality of life.

The amount of compensation you could recover depends on the extent of your injuries. If you suffered catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one because of a rear-end wreck, the compensation you could recover is usually significantly higher.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

If you were involved in a rear-end wreck, never assume that the wreck was your fault, even if you were the rear vehicle. Sometimes the lead driver is at fault. Our team will investigate the accident to determine which driver is at fault. Contact a car accident lawyer at Kaplan Lawyers PC to schedule a free case evaluation by calling (516) 399-2364.

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