This is not a dumb question. While it is safe to assume that the rear driver is at fault for a rear-end collision, it is not automatic. And in some case the lead driver can also be at fault.
If you have not been rear-ended, in all probability you will. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that rear-end collisions account for nearly 30% of all auto accidents reported in the United States.
Why the Tailing Driver is Commonly at Fault
The rear driver is at fault in the overwhelming majority of rear-end collisions. We routinely see:
- Speeding – driving too fast for conditions
- Texting or zoned out on a cell phone
- Disciplining rear-seated children
- Drunk driving
- Falling asleep
- Negligent car maintenance, such as bald or soft tires that hydroplane, faulty brakes.
While Rear Driver is More Likely to be at Fault, There are Exceptions
California law does not impose automatic liability in rear-end collisions or any other type of car accident case. The specific facts always matter. Liability for injuries and deaths is based on negligence. California defines negligence as the failure to exercise duty care. In a rear end collision, the driver whose unsafe conduct causes a crash is required to pay for the resulting damage. Because California is a comparative fault state, the lead driver may share liability for a collision.
Why the Lead Driver can be Found at Fault or Partially at Fault
The lead driver may be fully or partially responsible for a rear-end collision if their negligence contributed to the crash. Some examples of lead driver negligence include:
- Suddenly reversing direction
- Forgetting car was in reverse after backing up for a changed light
- Pulling out directly in front of another car
- Failure to yield the right of way
- Failure to use turn signals
- Defective brake lights
California Law: A Duty to Leave Adequate Braking Distance
Although the tailing driver is not automatically at fault for a rear-end collision, it is usually true because California law requires motorists always leave adequate braking distance.
Under California Vehicle Code 21703, drivers must not “follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.” In other words, the tailing driver has duty to consider the road conditions and adjust the following distance accordingly.
If you are rear-ended and suffer a serious injury, expect the offender and his/her insurance company to blame you. That is why it is crucial that you consult with an experienced California car accident attorney as soon as possible. With a thorough investigation, your lawyer can secure the evidence needed to prove it was not your fault.
Contact Our California Rear-End Collision Lawyers for Immediate Help
Alexander Law Group, LLP attorneys are available to answer questions and share our knowledge of the law and the results of our research and experience. Our goal as personal injury lawyers is to make a difference for our clients. Every day we deal with a range of health and safety issues that most people do not encounter until after an injury occurs. As safety lawyers we are committed to providing our clients and the public with information for safer and healthier living. Call 888-777-1776 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you.