By: Law Office of Denise Adkison-Brown

Is the Driver of the Car Behind Always at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

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This is a commonly held misconception by many drivers in Texas (and around the U.S.), but it’s not accurate. There are many reasons a car may rear-end another vehicle, and some of those reasons have nothing to do with the car behind. If you rear-ended someone, don’t immediately assume you’re liable. Call our office of experienced personal injury attorneys who can help walk you through your options and why you may or may not be liable.

What Are Some Reasons the Car Behind Isn’t at Fault for a Rear-End Collision?

There are a number of reasons why the car behind may not be at fault, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • The driver in front deliberately tried to get hit or acted out of road rage.
  • The car in front had broken brake lights, so the driver behind it couldn’t tell they were braking.
  • The driver in front was driving while under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol.
  • The driver in front reversed their car into the car behind them.

What if the Driver in Front of Me Braked Suddenly?

This is a situation that can potentially exonerate the driver behind the vehicle that braked unexpectedly. However, this one can be difficult to claim, since it can be argued that the driver behind was following too closely, which is unsafe. Texas law requires drivers to leave adequate space between vehicles on the road to avoid just this situation.
As to how much space a driver should leave, there’s no set guidelines, and much depends on road conditions. People driving at night, in bad weather, or driving in heavier vehicles should allow more space.

Another frequent cause of rear-end collisions is if the person driving behind another car is driving while distracted, such as checking their phone or adjusting the temperature or radio controls. This leaves them open to liability, since it’s well-established that distracted driving is a cause of many car accidents. Had they not been checking their phone or doing other things that took their eyes off the road, they could potentially have seen the driver in front of them braking in time to avoid rear-ending them.

Who’s Responsible if an Accident Involves Multiple Rear-End Collisions?

Everyone has seen the viral videos online, often footage from security cameras or dash cams: One car stops, often on a high-speed freeway, and the cars behind them pile into one another, like dominos falling and knocking the other dominos down. This is frequently seen during bad weather situations where drivers underestimate how slippery roads will be.

Who’s liable in these situations can be difficult to determine and prove. The people involved might have testimonials that are at odds with other people’s accounts. Someone at the front of the pileup may think one thing happened while someone further back has a different theory.

Often it’s the first two cars in the collision that end up responsible–but not always. There may be mitigating factors, such as a reckless driver who merged unexpectedly into the lane just head of the car that first slams on the brakes, causing the chain reaction. It could be unexpected debris in the road or an animal running into traffic. These types of cases are likely to head to a courtroom with the outcomes determined by a jury.

What if I Was Partially but not Fully at Fault for the Rear-End Collision?

Texas is a modified comparative fault (sometimes called a comparative negligence) state. That means the fault can be divided among multiple drivers. So the first driver might be deemed 25% at fault because they braked suddenly, but the second driver is regarded as 75% at fault because they were following too closely. The overall damages would be allotted as 75% for the driver who is only 25% at fault and the remainder for the driver who’s 75% at fault.

Like many other states, however, Texas caps comparative negligence at 51% or more. In other words, if one driver is determined to be at least 51% at fault, that driver is no longer eligible for damages.

What Should I Do if I Was in a Rear-End Collision?

Call us at 346-988-2170 to set up a free nationwide case review to go through your specific situation. If you’re the one who rear-ended someone else, make sure you don’t talk to the other driver’s insurance company or attorney. They represent the other driver, not you, and they’re likely going to try to get you to say something that could be construed as acknowledging you were at fault. If you were the one who was rear-ended, the same applies. You may even have the insurance company try to settle with you directly, but they’re hoping to pay out as little as possible, so don’t discuss a settlement with them or sign anything. Because Texas is a pure comparative fault state, it’s especially important not to give their attorney or insurance company any leverage for increasing the amount of fault assigned to you and reduced for their client.

Instead, refer them to your own attorney, who will know what to expect and how to negotiate. We’re here to help protect you and your interests, and we have the knowledge and background to handle these cases. We’re determined to make sure you receive the damages due you.