Why Liability for a Rear-End Crash Could be Complicated

vehicle taillights on highwayA large percentage of the car crashes that occur every year are rear-end crashes, which involve one vehicle crashing into the rear of another. Sometimes a rear-end collision involves more than two vehicles, as the force of impact propels a lead vehicle into another.

Even at a relatively slow speed, a rear-end crash can result in significant injuries. Even if an injury is not permanent, it could affect the victim for several months. Sometimes insurance companies consider rear-end crashes to not be that serious, but they are only saying this to reduce the value of a victim’s claim for compensation.

While liability for many rear-end crashes is often clear, there are times when liability is more complicated. Sometimes the lead driver is at fault because his or her negligence contributed to the crash.

Below, we discuss common reasons for rear-end collisions and liability for damages suffered in these accidents. If you were injured in a crash, we may be able to help you seek compensation for damages at no upfront cost to you.

Why do Rear-End Crashes Occur?

One of the main reasons rear-end collisions occur is because one driver is tailgating or following another vehicle too closely. If you tailgate another vehicle and the lead driver suddenly hits the brakes, you may not have enough time to stop before crashing into the rear of the lead driver’s vehicle.

Sometimes tailgating is intentional. One driver wants to go faster and is angry that the car in front of his or hers is preventing that from happening. Sometimes drivers tailgate to intimidate other drivers into speeding up or changing lanes.

Some of the other reasons for tailgating/rear-end crashes include:

  • Speeding – This often happens while a driver is distracted. He or she is texting and driving or otherwise distracted and does not notice how quickly he or she is approaching another car. If that other car stops, a rear-end crash could easily occur.
  • Distracted driving ­– Often, when drivers are distracted in heavy traffic, such as on a highway or interstate, distracted driving leads to a rear-end crash. These crashes often involve multiple vehicles because cars are so close together because of traffic.
  • Impaired driving – Impairment by alcohol or other drugs can lead to many types of accidents. Alcohol can impair judgment and reaction time. Some drivers are so impaired they have blurry vision and cannot tell how close other vehicles might be.
  • Inclement weather – Wet roads caused by rain could make it harder for another driver to stop before crashing into the back of another vehicle. Sometimes, water prevents a car from stopping because of old, worn tires.
  • Suddenly stopping to avoid running a red light – Sometimes a light turns yellow far enough from an intersection that approaching drivers could try to stop or go through the intersection before the light turns red. However, quickly stopping could result in a rear-end crash because the rear driver may think the lead driver should go through the intersection. In this situation, the rear driver is still likely to be found at fault for tailgating.

What Does State Law Say About Tailgating?

Under Louisiana Revised Statutes § 32:81, drivers must not follow another vehicle more closely than would be reasonable or prudent. Drivers must take into consideration for the speed of other vehicles and the amount of traffic.

There is room to interpret what reasonable and prudent means. However, if you are following so closely that you cannot stop when another driver hits the brakes, you were likely following too closely.

A general rule promoted by organizations interested in safe driving is to leave two to three seconds between your vehicle and the one in front of you. That means you identify a fixed object and once the lead vehicle passes it, start counting. If you do not reach two or three before your vehicle passes the fixed object, you should slow down and leave more space in front of your vehicle.

Assessing Liability for a Rear-End Collision

The rear driver is often the one who is 100 percent to blame. As Louisiana is an at-fault state, that means this driver is responsible for the victim’s damages.

Car accident claims are based on the legal concept of negligence, which refers to the breach of a duty of care that directly results in injury. Tailgating is a breach of the duty of care to operate a vehicle safely. You would also need to establish tailgating directly caused the crash, and the crash would not have happened otherwise.

However, there may be situations when fault is shared, or another driver bears most of the fault for the collision. If you got cut off just before a red light or before stopped traffic and you could not avoid a rear-end crash, the other driver may bear much of the fault for the crash.

If you were trailing another vehicle and a defect in your car prevented you from stopping, such as a defect with your brakes or tires, a product manufacturer could be held liable for damages. For example, the maker of your car, its brakes, tires or another component could be held liable for the accident.

If the driver in front of you suddenly goes in reverse, he or she may be 100 percent liable. If the lead driver’s brake lights do not work, and the crash happens at night, you may have been completely unable to see the rear of the car approaching.

Brake-check collisions are also rear-end collisions. They occur when the lead driver is angry about a tailgater so he or she decides to slam on the brakes for no other reason than to anger the trailing driver. Even though the trailing driver may be liable, the lead driver may also be liable for reckless driving. Even though the lead driver may have been justified in being upset about being tailgated, slamming on the brakes for no reason is a form of reckless driving.

If a victim shares fault for a crash, the value of his or her claim can be reduced based on his or her percentage of fault. That means the value of your claim would be reduced by 10 percent if you were found 10 percent at fault.

Were You Injured in a Rear-End Crash? Call Today

Our experienced Lafayette car crash attorneys are prepared to help you seek compensation for damages suffered in a crash caused by another’s negligence. We have been helping crash victims for decades and have recovered millions on their behalf.

If you have questions about your claim, the legal process, or the insurance company is not cooperating, we may be able to help. Our services come with no upfront cost, so there is no risk in scheduling a call.

Galloway Jefcoat. Licensed Attorneys. No Upfront Fees. Call (337) 984-8020.