Who is at Fault in a Rear-end Collision?

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at-fault-rear-end-accidentYou’ve probably heard from many people over the years that a driver who rear-ends another driver is always at fault. If you’re like many Texas drivers, you may have even been tempted once or twice to tap on your brakes when someone is following too close behind to force them to back off.

There are many common misconceptions regarding fault in a rear-end collision. The truth is that determining blame is just as complex as it is in any other car accident. Instead of pondering your options, focus on the facts. Sutliff & Stout can tell you how the facts do or do not play in your favor.

As a premier Houston car accident lawyer, we have years of experience helping those involved in rear-end collisions understand their options and work for optimal case outcomes. In Texas, rear-end collision claims can be complex. Trying to navigate the process on your own may not result in as successful an outcome as you might like.

Rear-End Collision Injury Questions Answered Here

Not ready to speak with a qualified personal injury lawyer? Read on to gain a better understanding of your best course of action.

  1. Rear-ended while merging?
  2. If someone slams on their brakes and you hit them, is it your fault?
  3. If someone pulls out in front of you and you hit them, is it your fault?
  4. If someone cuts you off and you hit them, who is at fault?
  5. Who’s at fault if you get rear-ended?

What is a Rear-End Collision?

A rear-end collision is characterized by a car accident in which a vehicle crashes into the one in front of it. While some rear-end collisions are mere fender benders, others can be more serious causing serious injury.

One of the reasons determining who was at fault is vital is that vehicles have a responsibility to follow behind one another at a safe distance. Often, the assumption is made after a rear-end collision that the vehicle in the back was not doing so, causing the accident in question.

Reasons Why a Person May Not Be at Fault

There are a number of scenarios in which the person who rear ends another is not at fault. One or more of these reasons may be applicable in your situation.

1. Failure 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. For example, you are on a residential street and a driver backs out of a private driveway and does not notice you coming up the street. Maybe the driver doesn’t even check to see if there is oncoming traffic, and you rear end the driver as they back out. In this case, the person who rear ends the other is not to blame.

2. Cutting Someone Off or Merging Too Close

Cutting someone off or merging too close can create a complicated situation in which it’s difficult to assign blame if a collision occurs. In this situation, for example, if a driver is merging onto the freeway and pulls in front of you without leaving enough space for you to adjust your speed, the driver could be held responsible for the collision if you rear end them.

The driver merging or changing lanes should be able to safely anticipate the presence of other drivers. This is especially important in heavy traffic. But if there is plenty of space for the driver to safely merge and the other driver fails to pay attention and stop in time to adjust to the merging vehicle, the situation could be reversed, and in this case, the person who rear ends the other driver may be at fault.

3. Stopping Short or Failing to Maintain Speed

As previously mentioned, drivers who are being tailgated are sometimes tempted to pump their brakes to slow down the car behind them. That is not always the best idea, especially if the tailgater does end up rear-ending you. A jury of your peers may end up deciding that you stopped too quickly and find you at fault for causing an unnecessary accident.

This type of situation, where there may be reason to believe the rear-ended driver stopped short or failed to maintain speed, can often fall into the judgment of a jury. So while it may have seemed like a good idea to pump your brakes or slow down to get another driver to stop tailgating you, if an accident occurs, a jury could very well find that your actions were not reasonable and, thus, you may be held responsible for the collision.

On the other hand, if you rear ended a driver that abruptly stopped in a situation where there was likely no reason for the driver to stop, you may not be found at fault for causing the accident. In this situation, it’s important to use your own judgment to figure out if a jury could logically determine from the circumstances.

4. Conditions That Contribute to a Rear-end Accident

The common thread here is that while many rear-end accidents commonly result in a finding that the driver who caused the accident failed to stop in time for a variety of unsafe driving reasons, there are many other individual factors that can contribute to this type of accident that can demonstrate that the other party was in fact the negligent driver.

Some of the causes to be aware of include driver inattention, such as texting while driving, tailgating, driving intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, failure to drive safely in adverse weather conditions, road defects or a third-party driver driving unsafely, unforeseen obstructions in the road, mechanical failure such as faulty brake lights, and accidents caused by health conditions. The answer of who is at fault in a rear-end accident is never as black and white as many drivers have been led to believe.

Determining “Duty of Care” in Texas Car Accidents

It may be difficult to determine which driver failed to adhere to their “duty of care” on the road. As such, if you have been involved in a car accident, either as the alleged at-fault driver or as the victim, it is important to consult with an auto accident attorney before filing or settling a claim.

This is a crucial first step because the negligent driver’s insurance company will ultimately be responsible for compensating the other driver for their damages. Additionally, even if you think you are absolutely sure who is at fault, it never hurts to seek legal advice before you file a claim.

Claims adjusters are accustomed to seeing a variety of situations and can quickly discern if there is enough evidence to support your claim, so it is better to be safe than sorry by seeking an expert legal opinion. In many cases, the insurance company will try to arbitrarily reduce the amount offered to you or deny your claim altogether. In these situations, it is best to find a well qualified car accident lawyer to assist you with your claim.

How Do You Determine Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

Texas is a comparative negligence state when it comes to car accidents, including rear-end collisions. This means that you are not automatically at-fault in Texas if you hit someone from the back. For example, if you engage in litigation in a rear-end collision, a jury may determine that one, both, or none of the drivers involved in the accident were negligent. Depending on the fault ratio assigned to each party, it may not be enough for you to collect damages from your case. Working with a Houston car accident lawyer can provide you with other options or at least let you know what to expect before the litigation process even begins.

Comparative negligence means that to win a judgment and subsequently collect damages against another entity in a rear end collision, a jury must determine that the other party was negligent. This is applicable no matter which part you played in the collision.

In some instances, the other driver may know they were culpable and attempt to claim an unavoidable accident defense. Such an approach might mitigate your ability to collect damages even if the accident was the other person’s fault. At Sutliff & Stout, we are well-versed in the various forms of defense and legal strategies that the other party may try to employ to avoid accountability.

How Can a Houston Car Accident Lawyer Help?

A skilled Houston car accident lawyer, like the team at Sutliff & Stout, can help you file a car accident claim and work to successfully negotiate or litigate to collect damages. Moreover, working with a car accident lawyer may also prove helpful when dealing with your insurance company. One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming that because the adjuster is friendly and seems helpful, the company will do its part and pay your claim. This is not always the case. The last thing you want is to be surprised with the news that your insurance company has outright denied your claim, leaving you holding the bag financially.

Sutliff & Stout has years of experience in dealing with car insurance companies that have used every trick in the book to try to get out of paying out claims to insured drivers. So not only can we assist in filing a claim to determine fault and help you collect damages, but we may also be able to assist where your auto insurance company is concerned.

We will start with a comprehensive claim review to determine what avenues might be best for your situation. At this point, we will collect all the facts and supporting documentation associated with your claim. Throughout the process, we will keep you fully apprised of each step so that you are never in the dark about the decisions being made on your behalf.

Work with a Houston Car Accident Lawyer on Rear-End Collisions

Have you been involved in a rear-end collision and want to know your options? Determining who was at-fault may be more complex than you think. Working with reputable Houston car accident lawyers like the team at Sutliff & Stout can apprise you of your options.

We have helped countless clients successfully resolve rear-end collisions. We may be able to help you as well. Schedule a free case review today by calling us at (713) 987-7111 or reaching out online to learn more.

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