Who is At-Fault in a Rear-End Collision? – Handling a Rear-End Crash


Laura Schaefer

In most cases, the rear driver is found at-fault in a rear-end collision. However, situations may occur where both parties carry liability for the rear-end accident.

The front driver may have driven recklessly, which led to the rear-end collision. If the rear driver was acting reasonably on the scene, the front driver may carry full liability for the accident.

Finding who’s at-fault in a rear-end accident is always a challenge, especially when there’s no evidence like dashcam footage to determine the cause. That’s when you need an auto attorney to clear the confusion and analyze the facts.

Legal representation not only can assist you with rear-end collisions, but other types of car accidents too, where liability is tricky. Other types of car crashes an attorney can help you with include:

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What is Considered a Rear-End Collision?

A rear-end collision happens when the front of one car runs into the back-end of another. These car accidents are often caused by tailgating, distracted driving, or brake checking – and are one of the most common types of car accidents.

About six million car accidents happen on U.S. roads and highways every year. Of these, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports that 40.8% of car accidents were rear-end collisions.

Not only are they deadly, but rear-end car accidents are the 2nd highest likely car accident to cause injury.

While collisions between motor vehicles accounted for less than half of motor-vehicle fatalities, this crash type represented 78% of injuries, 71% of injury crashes, and 71% of all incidents.

National Safety Council

Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents

The most common causes of rear-end accidents come from reckless driving behavior that narrows the space between the rear and front driver.

Beware these risk factors and drive defensively to reduce your fault in a rear-end collision:

  • Rear-ends while stopped
  • Excessive speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Poor weather conditions
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way

Most driving instructors recommend the three-second rule where both cars maintain a 3-second distance on the road. Negligent driving from the rear driver can greatly close the gap between vehicles, causing a rear-end collision.

1. Rear-Ends While Stopped

You might be rear-ended while stopped during heavy highway traffic where speeding vehicles must suddenly decelerate. These rear-end collisions are particularly dangerous because there is no speed to cushion the blow between you and the rear-driver.

Drive predictably and slowly decelerate when traffic builds up on the road. This allows the driver behind you to react on-time and stop themselves before hitting your rear.

2. Excessive Speeding

In the United States, speeding has been involved in nearly one-third of all fatal crashes for more than 20 years. Speeding is a leading contributing factor in collisions because it prevents drivers from leaving adequate space between cars. This cuts the amount of reaction time you have to respond to unexpected slow-downs or stops.

3. Distracted Driving

Texting, eating, or chatting on the phone slows reaction times and may cause distracted driving accidents, including rear-end collisions.

The NHTSA reported that 3,308 people were fatally killed in distracted driving accidents in 2022. Negligent drivers partaking in activities besides driving who cause a rear-end accident are most likely found at-fault for the crash.

It’s crucial that drivers stop themselves from getting distracted and pay attention to the road. The three-second rule breaks down when drivers are distracted and need more distance to react during sudden changes on the road.

4. Poor Weather Conditions

Slippery roads during rain or snow can lead to rear-end collisions if drivers are unable to stop. It’s important to leave extra space so drivers around you can travel slower to accommodate these harsh weather conditions.

You may want to leave more distance than usual to account for reduced visibility during weather events like rain and thunderstorms.

5. Failing to Yield the Right of Way

When a driver fails to yield the right of way, they may pull out in front of you when it is your turn to turn or move forward on the road. This is an instance where the trailing driver is not completely at-fault.

Faulty brakes and driver impairment from being drowsy or under the influence are also causes of rear-end collisions.

If you’re worried about liability or which insurance to call during a rear-end collision, contact an auto attorney. A legal specialist can offer legal advice specifically tailored to your situation, leaving no room for confusion.

What to Do During a Rear-End Car Accident

If you are involved in a rear-end car accident, here are some important steps you should take to ensure everyone’s safety in a crash:

  1. The first thing you must do after a car accident is stop your vehicle. Hit-and-runs are a crime in most states.
  2. Next, check for injuries and call 911 if it seems anyone is hurt. Call the police as well, as in some states it’s mandatory for them to write a report. Your insurance company will want to see this report.
  3. While you wait for the paramedics or law enforcement to arrive, if you’re able to move, start collecting information from the other driver(s) including:
  • Contact info (full name, address, phone, email)
  • Insurance card
  • Driver’s license and tag number
  • Car make and model

Also, be sure to gather witnesses’ contact information so your attorney can properly analyze your case and determine your liability. You’ll need as much evidence as possible if you take the other party to court for your losses.

What Insurance Do You Call For a Rear-End Accident?

After a rear-end accident, all drivers involved should notify their own insurance companies. Most insurance policies have a rule that you must report accidents in a “timely manner”. They may investigate the accident themselves and compare their info to the police reports and witness statements you gathered.

Failing to report your car accident could affect your policy, even if you were stopped when the collision occurred and feel you are not at-fault in any way.

When is a Rear-End Collision Not Your Fault?

After a rear-end accident, the trailing driver will almost always be found at-fault. Put another way, the person who hit the other vehicle takes the blame. There are some exceptions, however.

When the front driver causes a rear-end accident, it may be because they carelessly merged in front of quickly approaching traffic. This may occur when pulling out of a driveway or parking lot, when turning, or when changing lanes.

If you can prove the other driver was distracted and failed to yield, there may be shared fault among drivers in the crash.

Who is At-Fault in a Rear-End Collision Involving 3 Cars?

Generally, the trailing driver who started the crash chain is at-fault. However, the police will evaluate whether each driver exercised their duty of care in the situation.

They’ll look at things like road conditions, resulting damages, and skid marks to determine who stopped first in the rear-end collision. All drivers have a responsibility to always leave enough space between vehicles.

Rear-Ends and Comparative Negligence

Both drivers may partially be at-fault for a rear-end crash. When drivers share fault, many states’ modified comparative fault rules apply. Under this rule, the claimant’s damages are reduced in proportion to his or her degree of fault.

Comparative negligence relies on subjective decisions from a judge, jury, or insurance company to determine your damages. That’s why an attorney is important to lay out the facts in your case. Attorneys can pressure your insurance company to acknowledge your losses and defend you from accusations of liability from the at-fault party.

What Injuries Result From a Rear-End Collision?

Common injuries that result from this type of accident include:

Never ignore symptoms like headaches after a car accident, as back and brain injuries can develop into life-threatening conditions if unaddressed.

What is the Average Payout For a Rear-End Collision?

The payout settlement you are offered after a rear-end collision will depend on a few factors, including the seriousness of your injuries and the severity of the accident. A lawyer will be able to estimate a potential payout by also assessing these questions:

  • How your injuries have affected your ability to work, your loved ones and your daily life
  • Whether your injuries cause long-term effects and whether you’ll need future medical treatment, wages, or disability payments
  • Whether you could be considered at-fault for the accident at all

Settlement amounts after a rear-end collision can range from merely $10,000 for repair fees, to millions of dollars for lifelong disability.

Types of Damages From a Rear-End Car Crash

Economic damages are the type of damages for which you have received a bill (from a doctor, for example) or are otherwise easy to prove. They include the cost to repair your vehicle, the cost to rent another vehicle while your vehicle is being repaired, your total lost wages, and any medical expenses you had to pay.

Non-economic damages are more difficult to assign. These include damages for disability or disfigurement, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. These damages are generally only available if you sue an at-fault driver.

Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant. These are only available if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted egregiously negligent, such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Why You Need an Auto Attorney for Rear-End Crashes

The other driver’s insurance company may offer you a settlement soon after your accident. However, many insurance companies will offer you less than what your case is worth. There is no harm in talking to an attorney to gauge the true value of what your rear-end case might be.

Furthermore, it may take some time to learn how your accident will affect your life and how much medical treatment you will need in the future.

Find an Auto Accident Attorney For Your Rear-End Accident

An auto accident attorney can review your rear-end accident and determine who’s at-fault and the amount of losses you sustained. A good lawyer will try their best to protect you from egregiously low settlements by your insurance company.

LegalASAP has a network of over 500+ firms with thousands of experienced lawyers located throughout the country. We may connect you with an attorney who specializes in auto accident claims and rear-end collisions in your state.

Before settling your claim, sign up for a free consultation so you don’t accept a rear-end collision settlement offer that’s too low. Work with an attorney to secure the damages you’re owed.

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.