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Home > Blog > Auto Accident > How is Fault Determined in Rear-End Crashes?
by: NPHM | July 18, 2022

How is Fault Determined in Rear-End Crashes?

“In a rear-end crash, the rear driver is always at fault.”

If you’ve ever heard this statement concerning fault in rear-end accidents, you aren’t alone. It’s repeated often because in most cases, the rear driver is held liable for any damages incurred during the crash.

However, it’s not always true. The drivers that get rear-ended can be held liable for rear-end accidents when they did something to cause or contribute to them, such as brake checking as a form of road rage. But there are also plenty of ways that rear drivers can cause these types of crashes, too.

Here’s how fault is usually determined in these types of accidents based on facts and evidence.

Impact Damage and Brake Marks Can Prove Liability

When police are checking the scene of rear-end crashes, they often look for how much damage the rear-ended vehicles incurred and the presence of brake marks on the road.

When crashes cause significant damage to one or both vehicles, it can indicate that the rear driver was speeding or following too closely. A lack of brake marks, or a very short length of brake marks, can also indicate that the rear driver was following too closely or was distracted before the collision.

Cell Phone Activity Can Show the Rear Driver Was Distracted

In addition to following too closely, one of the most common causes of rear-end crashes is distracted driving. Even if a driver is following at a safe distance, they may not notice that the driver in front of them is slowing down or has stopped if they are distracted.

By the time they look up and see brake lights, it may be too late for them to slow down or stop to avoid a crash. Police can review a rear driver’s phone to determine if text messages or other distracting usage occurred in the moments leading up to the accident.

Driver Impairment Can Be a Factor in Rear-End Crashes

Drivers who are intoxicated or impaired often have difficulty judging distance and speed. They also may be unable to focus on the road ahead. That can make them more prone to causing rear-end accidents, regardless of speed or follow distance.

However, intoxicated drivers can also put themselves at higher risk of being rear-ended by other drivers. They may slow down or stop erratically and for no reason or veer into a new lane suddenly without signaling. In some cases, rear drivers are unable to avoid colliding with vehicles driven by intoxicated drivers, even when they are following at a safe distance.

When either driver is found to be intoxicated after a rear-end crash, it can help police determine who was at fault.

Lack of Taillights Can Cause Rear-End Crashes

Rear-ended drivers can be held liable for these types of crashes if they’re driving with their lights off or with non-functional taillights or brake lights at night or times of limited visibility. Without working taillights or brake lights, their vehicles may be extremely difficult or even impossible to see, which can make them liable for rear-end crashes instead of the drivers that hit them.

When gathering evidence, police may consider the condition of the vehicles involved. Driving with non-functional brake or taillights is both a citable offense and a cause for liability in rear-end crashes.

Sudden Lane Changes Can Make Rear-Ended Drivers Liable

Some rear-end crashes occur when drivers suddenly and erratically change lanes in front of other vehicles—especially when they don’t use their turn signals. This doesn’t only happen when drivers are intoxicated. Drivers may change lanes suddenly if they are distracted, unfamiliar with the area, in a rush, or experiencing road rage. 

In these types of crashes, it’s often impossible for rear drivers to avoid a collision, as they may have little to no warning or time to slow down and avoid a collision. Footage from dash cams and traffic cameras can help prove that a rear-ended driver made an erratic movement, as can statements from other drivers and witnesses.

Inclement Weather Can Reduce Visibility and Increase Crash Risks

Sometimes, neither driver is liable for a rear-end crash. This is most common in inclement weather, such as an extreme downpour, a blinding blizzard, or heavy fog. In weather situations like these, there is no safe follow distance, and lights may have little to no effect on making vehicles more visible.

There have been many instances of multi-car-pileups in heavy snow or fog, and it’s often because drivers are unable to see stopped or crashed vehicles until they are just a few feet from them. By that point, it’s too late for them to slow down, stop, or swerve to avoid a collision.

When investigating these crashes, police consider the current weather conditions to determine who, if anyone, was at fault.

Our Lawyers Can Help Determine Liability and Get You Full Compensation

If you were recently injured in a rear-end crash, whether you were rear-ended by another driver or you crashed into the back of another vehicle, it’s important for the crash to be fully and accurately investigated to find out who was at fault.

Although it’s often easier to get compensation if you were rear-ended, you can still get damages for a rear-end crash if you were the rear driver as long as the evidence shows you weren’t at fault.

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we know that these types of crash claims typically favor the rear-ended drivers, but we work hard to let the facts stand on their own instead of biases and preconceived notions. Contact our Ohio auto accident lawyers today for a free consultation. We want to help you get the money you deserve.

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