Determining fault for a rear-end collision isn’t always a simple task. While rear-end collisions are typically the fault of the rear driver, 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 Is Important
Some states, including Pennsylvania, have no-fault laws in place, meaning that drivers are covered by their insurance regardless of who was at fault, as per the Insurance Information Institute (III). In these no-fault states, you might think understanding how fault is determined in a rear-end collision is clear cut.
However, determining fault in an accident is still important because if the medical expenses, lost wages, and auto repairs amount to more than what your insurance paid you, then you could be entitled to compensation from the driver deemed at fault. This is especially helpful because Pennsylvania auto insurance policies have limited and full tort coverage that can impact personal injury payouts, as outlined by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.
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, per 42 PA Consolidated Statutes Annotated (CSA) §5524.
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When the Rear Driver Is at Fault
Although it depends on each individual circumstance, 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.
In many scenarios, the rear driver should have plenty of time to avoid a rear-end collision, as long as they were not negligent. Some common scenarios where the rear driver is liable include:
- Distracted Driving: Actions like texting, eating, or fiddling with the GPS can cause the rear driver to not brake in time, thus hitting the front driver. When driving distracted, the rear driver has a much slower reaction time and is much more likely to cause an accident.
- Aggressive Driving: 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 is maintaining the speed limit and keeps plenty of distance between themself and the lead driver, then the chance of a rear-end collision should be minimal. As a result, aggressive driving will likely make the rear driver liable in a rear-end collision.
When the Lead Driver Is at Fault
Although the rear driver is typically at fault when it comes to rear-end collisions, there are some scenarios where the rear driver isn’t entirely liable for the damages caused by an accident. These scenarios include:
- Reversing into a Car: In a scenario where the lead driver is reversing into the rear driver, then the lead driver is likely at fault. Since the lead driver is the one actively causing the crash and being negligent of their surroundings by backing into a vehicle, they will likely be found liable for damages.
- Aggressive Driving: If the lead driver was driving aggressively, then the rear driver may not be liable. Common causes of rear-end collisions are weaving in and out of traffic and failing to adequately signal a change of lane. If the lead driver aggressively weaves in front of the rear driver or fails to signal to the rear driver that they are switching into their lane, then the rear driver likely isn’t at fault.
- Emergency Situations: If an unforeseen emergency scenario caused the collision, then the rear driver may not be at fault. For example, if the rear driver’s brakes malfunction and render them unable to stop, then the accident may not be considered their fault. In addition, medical emergencies that can cause you to lose control of your vehicle and may leave the rear driver free of liability if they were the source of the accident.
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. In these scenarios, a third party’s negligence caused the other two drivers to crash. Some scenarios where neither party in a rear-end collision aren’t at fault are:
- Hazardous Road Conditions: In some scenarios, the rear driver may be unable to stop due to hazardous road conditions. Most commonly these road conditions include snow and ice, making the rear driver unable to stop in time or even see the lead driver ahead of them. In addition, if a road is under construction and requires drivers to slow down, yet fails to adequately convey that message, then the rear driver may not be at fault for not slowing down.
- Pedestrian Interference: Some rear-end collisions are caused by pedestrian interference, causing the rear driver to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting a pedestrian. In a scenario like this, it wasn’t the negligence of the rear driver that caused the accident, but rather the negligence and recklessness of the pedestrian.
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How a Lawyer Can Help a Rear-End Collision Case
If you want help in determining fault in a rear-end collision, then you can turn to a lawyer. A lawyer can help you build your case and strengthen it, allowing you to prove that another party was at fault.
A rear-end collision can cause massive damage to your overall quality of life, giving you injuries and forcing you to miss work. As a result, you’ll want to be duly compensated, something a lawyer can be a big help in. If you want a lawyer on your side after a rear-end collision, reach out to Berger and Green at (412) 661-1400. A member of our team will be happy to get started on your case.