Conventional wisdom says that if you wind up rear-ending another driver during an auto accident, you'll end up being the one who's held at fault. This is what makes rear-end collisions among the most dreaded among U.S. drivers. However, there are plenty of instances where conventional wisdom can easily go out the window. The following talks about some of these instances, as well as what you can do to better defend yourself in the event of an accident involving a rear-end collision.
The Rules of the Road
In most accidents involving rear-end collisions, the driver following the vehicle he or she collided into (also known as the "following" driver) is always assumed to be at fault for the accident. This is because it's always assumed that the following driver has a duty to maintain a reasonable distance from the lead vehicle, just in case the lead vehicle has to stop suddenly to avoid hitting an obstacle or another vehicle.
In most states, this duty is codified in what's known as the assured clear distance ahead (ACDA) rule. If the following vehicle fails to maintain a safe following distance (by not following the three-second rule, for instance), the lead driver can easily prove the following driver's negligence based on the ACDA rule.
When Both Drivers Are to Blame
Nevertheless, the following driver isn't the only one who has a duty to abide by the ACDA rule. The lead driver also has a responsibility to avoid situations where their actions or lack thereof could potentially place other drivers in jeopardy. The lead driver also has to follow at safe distances and keep their eyes out for any potential obstructions that could require them to slow down or brings their vehicle to a safe and controlled stop.
Here are some the ways that the lead driver could end up sharing the blame when it comes to a rear-end collision:
- The lead driver accidentally accelerates into your vehicle while his or her vehicle is in reverse.
- The lead driver prepares for turn by making a sudden stop, but changes his or her mind at the last second.
- The lead vehicle's brake lights are nonfunctional due to neglect or electrical malfunction.
- The lead vehicle breaks down, but the driver fails to pull off to the side of road and stops in place instead.
- The lead driver intentionally slams on the brakes -- a tactic that is unfortunately common during road rage incidents.
Under these circumstances, it's possible for both the following and lead drivers to be found at fault for their role in accident. It's only a matter of how much responsibility is to be shared among both drivers for the incident at hand.
How Responsibility is Determined
In many states, judges rely on contributory and comparative negligence in order to determine precisely who is at fault. Contributory negligence is the older and harsher standard of the two, preventing drivers from recovering damages in a lawsuit as long as any degree of negligence on the driver's part can be attributed to the accident.
Comparative negligence, on the other hand, allocates the fault among drivers based on their level of involvement in the accident. For example, if you can prove that the driver you ran into shares some level of fault for your rear-end collision, then you may be able to receive limited damages depending on the other driver's level of fault.
Ways to Protect Yourself in the Aftermath of a Rear-End Collision
Personal injury isn't the only thing you have to worry about in the aftermath of a rear-end collision. In addition to protecting yourself from injury, you can also heed these tips to reduce your level of fault, especially if you feel the other driver is partly at fault for causing the accident in the first place:
- Always maintain a reasonable following distance between yourself and the lead vehicle. This allows you to respond if the driver in front of you suddenly stops or swerves to avoid an obstacle.
- Always maintain the proper speed limit when driving. Traveling too fast for road conditions could land you with 100-percent fault in the event of a rear-end collision.
- If possible, use a dash-mounted camera to create a definite video account of the accident. Along with eyewitness accounts and police reports, the footage recorded at the moment of the accident can be used to bolster your claims during an insurance dispute.
These tips can be a big help when it comes to determining who's at fault for rear-end collision.
For more information or legal assistance in disputes over who is at fault in determining personal injury compensation, talk with professional personal injury attorneys, such as those at Sarkisian, Sarkisian & Associates PC.