Rear-end collisions are among the most common type of car accident in Los Angeles. Rear-end collisions are one of a few types of accidents in which there is usually “no-doubt” liability, which means the other driver is almost always at fault. If someone has hit your vehicle from behind in an accident, it’s unlikely that you will be found liable — but not impossible.
Why Do Rear-End Collisions Have “No-Doubt” Liability?
If someone’s vehicle is hit from behind, the other driver is nearly always found responsible no matter why the first driver slowed down or stopped. This is because basic traffic law requires a driver be able to come to a safe stop if the vehicle in front of them slows down or stops, even suddenly. If the driver can’t come to a safe stop and crashes into the car ahead of them, there is the assumption the driver was not driving safely and maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles.
Damages and Liability in a Rear-End Crash
Damages also tell an important story and contribute to establishing liability in rear-end collisions. The damages in these cases can prove what happened in the crash. If one vehicle has a damaged front end and another vehicle has a damaged rear end, there will be no doubt about the circumstances of the accident.
What Happens with a Multiple Vehicle Accident?
In complicated cases involving rear-end collisions, two cars may be pushed into each other when a third car strikes the middle car, forcing the vehicle into the rear end of the car ahead of it. In these cases, the driver of the third vehicle will be liable for the rear-end collision, even though that vehicle did not actually strike the damaged car from behind. The drivers of the first and middle cars can file claims against the third vehicle driver’s insurance company.
In another example, imagine a driver collides with the rear end of the vehicle ahead of her because another driver caused the first car to stop suddenly. In this case, the driver who rear-ended the car may have a claim against the driver who caused the first car to slow down or stop.
Is a Driver Struck From Behind Ever Liable?
There are some cases in which someone who is rear-ended to be found liable for the accident, although it’s not common. This is most likely to occur when the driver’s negligence contributed to the accident. For example, if the driver’s brake lights were not functioning and this contributed to being rear-ended, the driver can be found at least partially at fault. The same may be true if the struck vehicle had a blown tire and stopped in the traffic lane instead of moving to the shoulder.
Sometimes neither the rear vehicle or first vehicle driver are responsible for the accident. This is most common when road hazards contribute to a collision. If the driver behind you hit a large pothole in the road, lost control of their vehicle, and collided with your vehicle, the local municipality responsible for road maintenance may be to blame.
There are even cases in which a car driving up a hill stalls and starts moving backwards, colliding with the vehicle behind it. In this case, the driver wasn’t actually rear-ended but struck another vehicle “head-on” but in reverse. Rear-end collisions that happen because the front vehicle was defective may have even more complicated liability issues as it’s possible for the vehicle manufacturer to be found liable.
In general the most common scenarios in which the rear-ended driver can be found at least partially responsible include:
- The driver got a flat tire but did not pull over or use the hazard lights
- The driver had malfunctioning brake lights
- The driver stopped suddenly to make a turn but did not turn
- The driver reversed suddenly
Contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been involved in a rear-end collision, it’s important to seek legal representation if damages or liability are not clear in your case. While you are most likely not liable for being rear-ended, there are some cases in which you can be found partially at fault for damages.