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Who Is At Fault In A Rear-End Collision?

Who is at Fault in a Collision

Rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accident on our roads. As the name implies, a rear-end collision is when one vehicle hits the back of the vehicle in front of it. And while, in most cases, the rear driver will be the one at fault, this isn’t always the case. 

Presumption Of Fault

According to Louisiana RS 32:81, “the driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent,” considering speed, traffic, and highway conditions. Therefore, there is a presumption that when one vehicle is rear-ended by another vehicle, the driver of the rear one is at fault. 

While this will be true in specific instances when the driver of the rear vehicle has not left enough safe distance between them to stop, there are numerous exceptions and real-world complexities to this presumption. 

How Is Fault Established In A Rear-End Collision?

How is Fault Established

All drivers on the road owe other drivers a duty of care to drive safely and travel at a safe distance from others. A driver who violates, or breaches, that duty can be considered negligent if an accident results. While most rear drivers are typically found at fault in rear-end collisions, there are times when the front driver can be held liable for an accident.

Liability And Rear-End Collisions

Liability will fall on the driver who is found negligent in any car accident. While most rear drivers are found at fault in rear-end collision cases, a rear driver may have no way to avoid colliding with the car in front of them. Consequently, there are times when the front driver’s negligence causes the accident or when both drivers share some percentage of fault for the collision. 

Common cases when a front driver can be found negligent are when

  • The front driver is impaired or distracted and fails to recognize danger in the road, suddenly braking and causing the rear car to collide with them. 
  • The front car’s brake lights aren’t working properly, and the rear driver doesn’t realize it until a collision is inevitable.
  • The front driver hits the brakes suddenly, or “brake checks,” causing the rear vehicle to collide with it.
  • The front driver suddenly shifts into reverse.
  • The front car has mechanical problems, and the driver fails to move completely off the side of the road.
  • The front car dangerously pulls out, changes lanes, or merges in front of the rear vehicle, causing an accident.

The Sudden Emergency Doctrine

Unanticipated hazard

The Sudden Emergency Doctrine states that a rear motorist will not be considered at fault if they are suddenly confronted with an unanticipated hazard created by the front vehicle which they could not reasonably avoid. It is applicable when a driver sees a potential accident and takes appropriate action to try to avoid it. 

There are two elements that the rear driver must prove. First, that the hazard was unanticipated, and second, that they could not have reasonably avoided hitting the front car. What is considered unanticipated and reasonable will depend on the circumstances surrounding the accident, and these are often difficult things to prove. Consequently, establishing liability in a rear-end collision can become complicated. 

Proving The Fault Of The Front Driver

Unfortunately, in a rear-end collision, the rear driver is presumed to have breached his or her duty of care. The rear driver will bear the burden of proof that he or she was not the negligent party, but the front driver was. Evidence that can help establish fault in this situation can include

  • Images of tire skid marks showing that you attempted to slow down or stop
  • Witness accounts of what happened and what the front driver was doing right before the accident occurred.
  • A police report disclosing possible driver impairment or distraction.
  • Video surveillance of the accident
  • Cell phone records indicating driver distraction
  • The testimony of an accident recreation expert

Comparative Fault

In some cases, both drivers will be found partially at fault for the accident. In this case, compensation awarded to either or both parties will be reduced by the percentage of fault that was attributed to them. 

When A Rear-End Collision Results In Personal Injury

When a rear-end collision results in a personal injury, the at-fault driver will be liable for any injuries that resulted from their negligence. It is important to establish liability to ensure that the injured party gets fairly compensated for their injuries. Because of the complexity of these cases, getting skilled legal assistance is critical if you have suffered an injury in a rear-end collision. 

Consulting With A Rear-End Collision Attorney 

At the Law Offices of Chip Forstall, we are committed to the rights of car accident victims and their families. If you have been involved or injured in a rear-end accident, our experienced personal injury attorneys can help. Call us at (504) 483-3400 or contact us through our contact form to schedule a free consultation.

The Chip Forstall law offices advocate for the rights of wrongful death survivors, injured pedestrians, drivers, cyclists and more. Call us today for a free consultation.

PHONE   |    504-483-3400
FAX   |   504-483-3447

320 North Carrollton Ave, Suite 200

New Orleans, LA 70119

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