Determining fault for a rear-end collision isn’t always a simple task. While rear-end collisions are typically the rear driver’s fault, the fault is determined by which party displayed negligent behavior. The drivers’ actions leading up to the collision and how safely they drive play a huge role in determining who’s at fault.
Why Determining Fault in a Rear-end Collision is Important
Some states, including Pennsylvania, have modified no-fault laws in place. So, drivers are covered by their insurance regardless of who was at fault, as per the Insurance Information Institute (III).
If your medical expenses, lost wages, and auto repair bills incurred amount to more than what your insurance covers, you could be entitled to compensation from the driver deemed at fault.
Additionally, determining who’s at fault and seeking compensation as soon as possible is extremely important, as the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is only two years in most cases, per 42 PA CSA § 5524. Not meeting the deadline could leave you with little to no options for seeking compensation.
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When the Rear Driver Is at Fault
Although it depends on the specifics of each case, the rear driver is usually considered at fault in a rear-end collision. That’s because in many cases, the rear driver usually acted negligently in a rear-end accident, like if they were engaged in:
Actions like texting, eating, or fiddling with the GPS can cause the rear driver to not brake in time, thus hitting the front driver. The rear driver has a much slower reaction time when driving distracted and is more likely to cause an accident.
Speeding and tailgating could limit the reaction time of the rear driver and limit their ability to stop suddenly and avoid a rear-end collision. If a rear driver drives lawfully, however, the chance of a rear-end collision increases. As a result, aggressive driving will likely make the rear driver liable in a rear-end collision.
Failing to Leave a Space Cushion
It is often the case that drivers do not leave enough space between them and the vehicle ahead in order to stop in an emergency or for stopped traffic ahead. These accidents are known as assured clear distance violations.
Many accidents that occur on ice or snow covered roads are caused by drivers who are traveling too fast for road conditions. Driving too fast for road conditions can cause multi-vehicle accidents.
When the Driver in Front is at Fault
Although the rear driver is typically at fault when it comes to rear-end collisions, sometimes the rear driver isn’t entirely liable for the damages caused by an accident. These scenarios include:
Reversing Into a Car
If the lead driver is reversing into the rear driver, the lead driver is likely at fault.
If the lead driver was driving aggressively, the rear driver may not be liable. Common causes of rear-end collisions are weaving in and out of traffic, failing to adequately signal a change of lane and merging into a lane without adequate space.
External Conditions and Determining Fault
In some scenarios, neither driver may actually be at fault, as a rear-end collision could be caused by a third party. Some scenarios where the first two car drivers in a rear-end collision aren’t at fault are:
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How a Personal Injury Lawyer with Our Firm Can Help a Rear-end Collision Case
If you want help determining fault in a rear-end collision, a car accident lawyer on our team can help you build your case. In doing so, you can rely on them to gather evidence, such as:
- The accident report
- Statements from witnesses
- Photos of the vehicles involved, the crash scene, and your injuries
- Your medical records
- Available video footage
- Your personal account of the accident and how it has impacted your life
The evidence, as well as other forms of it, will show us who was negligent. So, we may be able to prove the other party:
- Owed you a legal duty of care
- Failed to meet this standard of care
- Caused the rear-end collision that ultimately led to your damages
Pitfalls to Trying to Work with the Insurance Company Without an Attorney a Following a Rear-end Collision
Insurance companies are known for safeguarding their bottom line to avoid paying out a claimant’s damages. For example, they might try to use Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence law, 42 Pa. CSA § 7102, to their advantage. This law says that you can collect damages as long as you are less than 50 percent to blame for the accident.
Our lawyers will work to show that you hold minimal fault for the accident so that you can recover the damages you need.
How You Can Protect Your Right to Damages
There are a handful of things you can do to protect yourself from falling victim to the insurance company’s tactics, like:
- Directing them to your lawyer when they call you
- Avoiding posting on social media
- Getting medical attention as soon as you can after the accident—not only for the sake of your health but also to connect the accident to your injuries
You can also retain a lawyer to handle your entire case. They can investigate if texting and driving was involved in your car accident and stand up to aggressive insurance companies.
Turn to Berger and Green After a Rear-end Collision in Pennsylvania
A rear-end collision can cause damage to your overall quality of life, giving you injuries and forcing you to miss work. The situation can be even more complicated when the other party disputes the fault.