Who Is At Fault in a Rear End Collision?
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Aug 16, 2017 in Car Accidents
A rear-end collision occurs when a vehicle is hit from behind by another vehicle. It is one of the most common types of car accidents in Maryland and in the United States.
Determining liability for a rear-end collision will require identifying the cause of the accident and all parties involved. Our seasoned Silver Spring car accident attorneys can review the evidence from your case to determine the cause of the accident and who should be held liable.
We will review the police report, any available photos or video evidence, witness statements, and more. It is our goal to help you build a strong case on your behalf so you can obtain the compensation you need for your injuries.
Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions
The first step in determining liability for a rear-end collision is to determine the cause of the accident. Some of the most common causes of rear-end accidents include:
Following Too Closely
Maryland Transportation Code Annotated, § 21-310(a)(2005) states that motorists should not follow another vehicle “more closely than is reasonable and prudent,” given the speed of other vehicles and road conditions.
When following another vehicle too closely, the motorist will not have time to react to the front vehicle’s actions. If it slows down or stops, the rear vehicle will not have time to do the same.
A good rule of thumb for maintaining a safe distance is to leave about three seconds between your vehicle and the one in front of you. You can determine your following distance by identifying a fixed object on the side of the road, such as a sign. Once the back bumper of the vehicle in front of you crosses that object, start counting until your vehicle’s front bumper reaches the same object.
If the weather is poor, especially if the road is slippery from rain, ice or snow, you should increase your following distance. This is because the slippery road will make it more difficult to stop.
Similarly, fog or other vision-impairing weather can make it difficult to see what is happening ahead of you. Make sure you have enough space between your vehicle and the one in front of you in case you come upon a stopped vehicle.
Aggressive driving can make motorists take risks they normally would not. This can include tailgating another vehicle or changing lanes abruptly and cutting off other vehicles. Both of these actions can lead to a rear-end collision as the rear vehicle does not have time to react.
The faster a vehicle is moving, the more time and space it will need to come to a complete stop. If you are speeding, and suddenly need to stop for a vehicle or hazard in the road, there is a chance you will not be able to stop in time.
Not Paying Attention
Any time your attention is not solely focused on the task of driving, you are at a risk for an accident. Rear-end collisions can happen easily if a driver is distracted. This is because the driver likely will not realize that he or she needs to stop because his or her attention is diverted from the road.
Common distractions behind the wheel can include:
- Adjusting the music
- Reading or replying to emails
- Checking social media
- Talking on the phone
- Talking to passengers
- Searching for something in the vehicle
Maryland law specifically prohibits motorists from using a handheld device while driving.
Driving Under the Influence
Alcohol and drugs severely limit an individual’s reaction time and judgement. This can make it very difficult to stop in time to avoid rear-ending another vehicle. You should never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In many cases, it is easy to determine who was at fault for a rear-end collision.
As a general rule, if a vehicle is lawfully stopped and is struck from behind by another vehicle, there is a presumption that the rear vehicle that struck the first vehicle was negligent and caused the collision (Andrade v. Housein, 147 Md. App. 617 (2002)).
This is because motorists are required to follow another vehicle at a reasonable distance that gives enough time to come to a complete stop if the vehicle in front of him or her slammed on its brakes. If the vehicle slams on its brakes and the rear vehicle slams into the back of it, it is likely that the rear driver was following too closely.
Although this can apply to many rear-end collisions, there are exceptions to the rule. This can include situations where:
- The front driver intentionally slams on the brakes
- A vehicle backs up into the front of a rear car
- One vehicle cuts off another, leaving the second driver no time to react
Any of these actions could lead to the car that was hit being considered partially or fully responsible for the collision.
If the driver of the car that was hit is considered partially at fault for causing the collision, the rule of contributory negligence will come into play and could prevent that person from recovering compensation for his or her injuries.
If an injury victim is even one percent at fault for the collision, he or she will be barred from recovering any compensation.
For this reason, the other party will likely try to place blame on you after a rear-end collision to attempt to avoid paying any compensation for your accident and injuries.
Having a trusted car accident lawyer by your side can help make sure your rights are protected and that you are not blamed for something you did not do.
Contact a Reputable Lawyer
Although rear-end collisions are often straight-forward, they can easily become complicated. If you have been injured in a rear-end accident, do not hesitate to contact our trusted auto accident attorneys for help with your claim. We will handle the insurance company for you and advise you of your legal options.
Your initial consultation with our firm is free, and we will not charge any fees unless we recover compensation for you.
Complete a Free Case Evaluation form to get started today.