If You’re Rear-Ended, Is the Other Driver Automatically at Fault?

by Staff | June 14th, 2021

Because California is such a large, populous state, the number of vehicles on the roads increases the likelihood of being involved in a car crash. There were 3,316 fatal car accidents in California in 2019. However, most motor accidents are not fatal. One of the most common non-lethal types of car accidents is a rear-end crash.

Many people assume that because the car behind usually initiates contact with the leading vehicle, they are automatically at fault. While the rear driver is usually the liable party in rear-end collisions, there are some exceptions. With the adoption of comparative negligence in California law, there is always a chance that the lead driver is liable to some degree.

In any auto accident, the key to resolving fault is to determine negligence. In California, rear-end accidents fall under the rebuttable presumption that the second car holds liability for the accident. This means that while it’s likely to be the fault of the car behind, this presumption must be clarified before negligence is concretely determined.

Role of Negligence in Car Accidents

All drivers have a duty of care for other road users. To prove negligence in an accident, you must demonstrate how one driver’s breach of duty led to the accident. Breaches of duty that can lead to car accidents include:

  • Failure to stop in a reasonable amount of time
  • Driving at an unsafe speed in relation to speed limits and road conditions
  • Inability to control your vehicle
  • Failure to yield the right of way
  • Not using indicator signals
  • Trailing a car at an unsafe distance

To receive compensation for a rear-end collision, drivers must prove that the opposing driver breached their duty, which caused the accident. You must also show that you sustained damages to your body or vehicle as a result of the incident.

Proving Fault in an Accident

To win a rear-end collision claim in California, you must prove that someone other than you was at fault. While it may be obvious whose fault the accident was, this must be indisputable in legal terms. For this reason, official proof is necessary to support your argument. Proving fault in an accident can be done using the following:

  • Police reports
  • Witness statements
  • Photographic evidence
  • Video evidence
  • Vehicle damage
  • State traffic laws

Cases When the Lead Driver Is at Fault

Due to the positioning of vehicles on the road, the fault of rear-end accidents is generally with the rear vehicle driver. It is much easier for the trailing car to break the duty of care, causing an accident. All it takes is a moment of distraction or driving too close to the vehicle ahead to cause a collision.

However, there are circumstances where the lead driver is at fault in a rear-end accident. Some of the most common causes include:

  • The lead car reverses suddenly in a dangerous manner and without warning.
  • The lead car stops suddenly, signaling to turn but then fails to make the turn.
  • The lead car’s brake lights don’t work.
  • The lead car has a flat tire but doesn’t pull over and fails to use the hazard warning lights.
  • The lead car changes lanes dangerously, leading to a rear-end collision.
  • The lead car stops suddenly without a reasonable cause.

As with rear-end collisions where the rear driver is at fault, you must provide adequate proof to show negligence on the part of the lead motorist.

Comparative Negligence

California uses a pure comparative negligence system, meaning both parties can collect damages from a legal case as long as one person isn’t 100% negligent. However, you will receive less from your settlement if the court determines you hold part of the fault for the accident.

To successfully negotiate a motor accident claim in California, it’s essential to hire representation from a reputable lawyer, particularly if pure comparative negligence is involved.

Berg Injury Lawyers Can Help

At Berg Injury Lawyers, we have a skilled team of experienced San Francisco car accident lawyers. We prioritize maximizing compensation for our clients and work to earn them reimbursement for medical expenses, lost wages and earnings, pain and suffering, repairs and replacements, and more.

We’ve built a reputation as tough negotiators with insurance companies over the years, ensuring you won’t be taken advantage of. If you suffered an injury in a rear-end crash, don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule your free consultation.