Rear-End Accident

Who is at fault in a rear-end collision? 

A rear-end accident occurs when a vehicle crashes into another vehicle in front of it as a result of rapid or sudden deceleration of the leading vehicle. In this type of auto accident, liability will almost always fall onto the vehicle that rear-ended the other. How is the blame decided? Negligence is frequently claimed in lawsuits involving auto accident cases. Liability of the damages in a rear-end collision will ultimately boil down to proof of negligence of the other driver or in some cases, both.

What is the law of negligence?

When filing a lawsuit for a rear-end collision, the plaintiff could claim and must prove that the defendant’s negligence and breach of duty was the direct cause of the injuries. This is easily proven since, under CACI 700, a person must use reasonable care when operating a vehicle.  

  1. The defendant was negligent.
  2. The defendant was harmed.
  3. The defendant’s negligence was a factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.

What is Actual and Proximate Cause?

 “Actual cause” is linear. The driver’s actions are in fact the cause of the accident. 

For example: The driver was tailgating the vehicle in front and hits the car after the leading car comes to a sudden halt. 

“Proximate cause” is recognized as an event that sets in motion the other events that caused the injury. It is not necessarily the first or last event before an injury, but instead an action that produced foreseeable consequences that no one could have intervened in. The plaintiff must prove that the injuries were a direct consequence of the proximate cause. Otherwise, without the proximate cause, the injuries would have never occurred. 

For example: A motorist that was DUI was swerving in and out of lanes, who then drives straight into another car. The victim suffers from severe whiplash; the injury would have never occurred if the defendant had not been DUI. 

Common Causes of a rear-end accident: 

  1. Tailgating- Failing to keep a safe distance from other cars is a violation of VC 21703. 
  2. Distracted driving
    • Texting while driving
    • Usage of handheld device- Violation of VC 23121.5 (a) 
    • Using headphones or earphones while driving- Doing so is a violation of VC27400 
    • Changing music 
    • Failing to pay attention to the road
  3. Speeding and road rage- Driving at speeds that go beyond the speed limit or what is reasonable 
  4. Driving under the Influence- A proximate cause that could put other lives in danger. 
  5. Reduced traction due to weather 

Is the tailing driver always at fault?

Generally speaking, the tailing driver will usually have automatic fault. Then, all that is left is to figure out the value of the plaintiff’s injury claim. However, in some instances the at-fault driver’s insurance company will say that the plaintiff is partly to blame for the accident. 

What if I am partly to blame for a rear-end collision? 

Partial blame of an accident is called “comparative fault.” The principle of “comparative negligence” is applied when the plaintiff’s own negligence contributed to the cause of the injury. In other words, the damages that the plaintiff is awarded will be reduced. The fault is divided among parties by percentages and the plaintiff will recover from any damages accordingly. 

For example: The jury has determined the plaintiff’s damages will be 200,000 dollars, but they find that the plaintiff is 25% at fault. Therefore, the plaintiff will not recover the full 200,000 and instead be awarded 150,000 dollars

In California, the lead driver could be at fault when: 

  1. The driver has broken brake lights
  2. The crash is a result of a bigger accident
  3. The driver was operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol 
  4. Pulling out in front of another car
  5. Reversing into a car

What are the common physical injuries of a rear-end accident? 

After a crash, some may experience mental fog while other may become flooded with concerns; everyone reacts differently. The most common complaints after a rear-end accident is neck pain, back pain, and headaches. Injuries from a rear-end collision can cause a short term effect, such as a headache, while some may lead to permanent or life-altering injuries like herniation It is important that after an accident the victim seeks medical attention. The moments after a car accident can be disorienting, which can make the driver feel as if they not injured. More often than not, avoiding medical attention can lead to more serious issues down the road. 

Common physical injuries:

  • Whiplash- Is a sprain or strain that occurs when the neck or spine is violently jerked from the impact of the rear-end crash. In the early stages of a whiplash injury, treatment could involve massage, physical therapy, or chiropractic care. Anything that is past six weeks will require additional medical care. 
  • Sprains and Strains- These are common after rear end accidents. The sprain or strain of a ligament could cause immense pain, soreness, or swelling.
  • Herniated Discs: Herniation occurs when the spinal discs are protruded into the spinal canal, leading to excruciating pain into the arms or legs. 
  • PTSD- Emotional and mental distress due to the nature of the incident. 
  • Changes in personality
  • Numbness- losing feeling in the limbs could also be a sign of whiplash. 

What damages can be recovered from a rear-end accident? 

Recovering damages in a rear-end collision can include economic and non-economic compensation. This includes any losses that are associated with the accident. 

Damages to be recovered could include:

  • Past or future medical expenses
  • Bodily injury damages
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity 
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement 
  • Physical impairment
  • Therapy
  • Emergency room treatment 

Hire our law firm (510) 988-5566for a FREE consultation 

A rear-end accident can be a nightmare experience, as much emotionally as physically. If you have been injured in a rear-end collision it is important to remember that your health comes first and should always be a primary concern. Many drivers will attempt to handle the claim on their own or will allow the insurance company to handle it. Unfortunately, insurance companies aim to pay out as little as possible. In result, leaving you with the remainder of the damages uncompensated for. With the help of a qualified personal injury attorney you can recover the compensation you deserve.