Who Is Liable in a Rear-End Car Accident?

Car Accidents On Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Rear-end collisions are some of the most common accidents seen in Connecticut. The general assumption is that the rear or following driver is liable, or at fault and financially responsible, for a rear-end collision. While this is often true, liability is not automatic – nor does it always go to the rear driver. In some circumstances, liability for a rear-end collision can go to the other driver.

Common Causes of Rear-End Car Accidents

A rear-end collision occurs when the front of one vehicle collides with the back of another. These accidents often occur on busy roads or in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The fault in most rear-end collisions goes to the rear driver. If the driver in the back isn’t paying attention or fails to leave the driver in front of him or her enough space, the rear driver could cause a rear-end collision. 

Common causes of these accidents include:

  • Following too closely
  • Intentionally tailgating
  • Speeding 
  • Distracted driving
  • Texting while driving
  • Driving under the influence
  • Falling asleep at the wheel
  • Road rage or aggressive driving behaviors

Following too closely is the number one cause of rear-end car accidents. According to the Connecticut General Statutes, Section 14-240, no driver shall follow another motor vehicle more closely than is reasonable or prudent based on the speed of both vehicles and the conditions of traffic, the roadway and the weather. If the rear driver is guilty of following too closely or tailgating, he or she will most likely be held responsible for a resultant rear-end collision.

When Could the Front Driver Be Held Liable?

Contrary to popular belief, the fault for a rear-end collision does not automatically go to the rear driver. After this type of crash, an investigation will be done by the insurance company to determine the cause of the collision. Investigators may return to the scene of the accident, review the police report, compare the property damage done to both vehicles, interview eyewitnesses, and take other steps to recreate the crash.

There are circumstances where the front or leading driver could be found liable for a rear-end collision, including:

  • Brake-checking the rear driver, or suddenly slamming on the brakes without reason
  • Missing or broken brake lights or taillights
  • Sudden or unsafe lane changes
  • Failure to maintain adequate speed after switching lanes or merging
  • Unsafe passing
  • Cutting another driver off
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Reversing into another driver after stopping

If an investigation finds that the front driver committed any of these acts, he or she could be found wholly or partially responsible for the rear-end collision. In a chain reaction accident, liability can be even harder to determine. These types of accidents involve three or more rear-end collisions between multiple vehicles. In general, the driver who caused the first collision that started the chain reaction will be liable.

Protecting Your Rights After a Rear-End Collision 

Rear-end car accidents can cause serious and debilitating injuries, including whiplash, back and spine injuries, concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, and broken bones. If you get injured in this type of car accident, consult with an attorney as soon as possible. Even if you were struck from behind by another driver, liability is not always certain. The other driver’s insurance company may try to blame you for the crash. If successful, this could limit or take away your ability to recover financial compensation for your medical bills and property damage. 

If you were the driver in the rear vehicle but you know you did not cause the rear-end collision, you may need an attorney to help defend you against allegations of liability from the other driver’s insurer. A New Haven car accident lawyer can represent you during insurance claim negotiations or a personal injury trial in pursuit of the financial compensation that you deserve.

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