Is It Always the Driver in the Back?
Statistics confirm that one of every three car accidents in the country are rear-enders. There are a wide variety of causes, including excessive speed, distracted driving, mechanical failure, and fatigue. A common misperception is that the personin the rear car is always responsible. But is that really the case? If not, what are the situations where liability may differ?
Determining the Basis for Liability
When you’re seeking compensation for a personal injury, it’s almost always based on a legal theory of negligence. Negligence requires that you show three things:
- You must show a breach of duty—Under the laws governing personal injury, every person in society has a duty to engage in reasonable behavior atall times and with respect to all actions—driving a car included. A person will be considered negligent only if it can be shown that his or her actions were not reasonable under the circumstances.
- You must establish cause—The accident must have been the result of the other driver’s failure to act reasonably.
- You must demonstrate actual loss—As a consequence of the accident, the injured party must have lost something of value.
As a general rule, it’s reasonable to expect that a person behind the wheel of a car to focus their attention on the road ahead. Accordingly, if you rear-end someone because you aren’t paying attention—whether because of fatigue or distraction—you can be held liable. Likewise, if you’re traveling at a speed that makes it impossible to stop in time, that can be considered negligence.
When the Following Driver May Not Be Liable
Though it’s rare for the driver in the rear to escape liability, it does happen in certain circumstances:
- The front vehicle is stopped in the road without any hazard lights on.
- The driver in front is moving in reverse at the time of the crash.
- The driver in front brakes but has non-functioning brake lights or lights that are obscured by snow or other substances.
- The driver in the rear has a vehicle malfunction, in which case liability may bewith the vehicle manufacturer or a garage that serviced the vehicle.
Contact the Law Office of Howard D. Popper
For a free initial consultation to learn about your rights after, contact our office online or call 973-993-8787 to set up an appointment. We have offices in Morristown and Newton. Currently, all our client communications are by phone, text message, or online videoconference.
We handle all motor vehicle accident claims on a contingency basis. You won’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover damages for your losses.