Rear-End Accidents: Is the Driver in the Following Vehicle Always at Fault?

Usually, but not always.

Rear-end crashes are the most common type of vehicle accident in the United States, accounting for about 1.7 million crashes each year. Of those crashes, about 1,700 are killed and an additional 500,000 are injured. If you have been driving for any length of time, you are probably under the impression that the driver of the following vehicle (the one that crashes into the back of the lead vehicle) is always at fault for rear-end accidents. While it is true that the drivers of rear vehicles in rear-end crashes are usually mostly at fault, there are several situations that can reduce or entirely eliminate the rear driver’s liability.

Why Following Drivers are Almost Always at Fault

Because very few car accidents are intentional, liability for them is based on negligence. When you drive a car, you owe all other drivers on the road a duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care to drive safely. If you breach that duty, you will be found negligent and, thus, liable for the accident. Liability for rear-end accidents almost always falls on the following driver because negligence is extraordinarily easy to establish in cases where one car slams into the rear of another. Such an accident could be the result of a wide variety of unsafe driving habits, such as failing to pay attention to the road, following the lead driver too closely, failing to drive at a reasonable speed, or failing to yield the right of way.

Mitigation of Liability

There are at least three situations that can reduce or eliminate liability for the driver of the following vehicle in a rear-end accident.

  • Acceleration in reverse: This is by far the most obvious exception to the above rules. If two cars are stopped at an intersection and the lead vehicle suddenly slams into the front of the following vehicle, it is clear that the driver of the lead vehicle was negligent in putting his car into reverse when he should have put it in drive. While these cases are very rare, they absolve the following driver of liability.
  • Unsafe driving practices of the lead vehicle: Rear-end crashes are not always the exclusive fault of the following vehicle; sometimes the driver of the lead vehicle can engage in behaviors that contribute to the accident like not having brake lights, cutting in front of other drivers, or merging into adjacent lanes without maintaining proper speed. In these cases, the lead driver will often share liability for the accident with the following driver.
  • Atmospheric conditions: Occasionally, rain, snow, fog, smoke, or other atmospheric conditions can reduce visibility significantly, such that even drivers exercising the appropriate care cannot avoid hitting a vehicle in front of them. In these cases, liability for the following driver can often be mitigated.

Contact an Atlanta Rear-End Accident Attorney
If you’ve been involved in a rear-end accident and suffered injuries, you may have a claim against the other driver. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Columbus, Fort Benning, and Rossville.

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