Rear-End Collisions: When They're NOT Your Fault

People have been told since they day they learned to drive that if they rear-end the vehicle in front of them then they are automatically at fault. You might have heard this a dozen times, but the fact is, it's not necessarily true. When you rear-end someone, fault still has to do with who was negligent. Here is everything you need to know about negligence, and when rear-ending someone isn't your fault.

Negligence & Accidents

When someone is negligent, it means that they did something wrong while driving. Some examples of negligence include:

  • Failure to stop at a stop sign
  • Running a red light
  • Not using a turn signal
  • Driving too close to other vehicles

All of these things can result in an accident. There are things someone in front of you can do that is considered negligent, resulting in you rear ending the person, and it not being your fault. For example, if you're stopped on a hill and the person in front of you is driving a stick shift and they roll backward into your vehicle, it's not your fault unless you were right up against their bumper. While someone slamming their breaks can be considered your fault for not driving at a safe distance, the person's car completely dying could put them at fault. The person simply having broken brake lights could put them at fault, too.

Comparative & Contributory Negligence

Negligence isn't always so cut and dry. When it comes to an accident, people tend to think it's one person's fault or the other's, but comparative and contributory negligence explore the alternative that both drivers are at fault to some degree, and it's used in court when someone decides to file a lawsuit after a car accident.

Contributory negligence is if the plaintiff is found having at least 10% fault in the accident, then they will recover nothing in damages. Only four states, plus Washington DC, allow the contributory negligence rule. There include:

  • Alabama
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia

Comparative negligence is much different. There are two types of comparative negligence, pure comparative fault and modified comparative fault. Thirteen states use pure comparative fault, which can seem odd at times. Basically, damages are reduced depending on the percentage that each party is at fault. It seems fair, but it can be a bit tricky. Even if the defendant is found 99% at fault, he or she can still receive damages since the other party was found with 1% fault. Of course, it would be in the best interest of the party who was only 1% at fault to sue next. With modified comparative fault, the majority is what matters. Whoever has the most amount of fault pays the other. The amount of damages the person will receive will depend on how much fault the other party contributed. Therefore, the defendant will get much more if the plaintiff is 90% at fault than if they were 60% at fault. If the fault turns out to be 50/50, no one receives any damages. Modified comparative fault is recognized by 33 states.

Proving Fault

Proving fault is important if you rear-end someone. Although rear ending someone doesn't make you automatically at fault, it can be difficult to prove you weren't. People who are rear ended are almost always not at fault. If someone backs up into you, has broken brake lights, or something else happened that should put them at fault, you need to gather witnesses. Try to flag people nearby to pull over and ask them to stay while you file a police report. The more witnesses you can get on your side, the better. Call the police immediately and file a police report. If you try to work it out between the other driver, the insurance company will most likely deem you at fault.

Rear end collisions may not always be your fault, but they are tricky. Make sure you gather witnesses, file a police report, and consider negligence if you decide to file a lawsuit against the other driver. Follow the link in this line for additional reading on this topic.