Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

Date: November 14, 2023

Drivers are expected to act reasonably under the circumstances of the road. One of the hallmarks of defensive and safe driving is allowing a proper following distance between vehicles. Drivers should never tailgate or travel too close to the vehicle in front of them since it makes it difficult to stop in time to avoid a car accident.

Proper following distance depends on weather and road conditions. In good driving conditions, drivers should count at least two seconds between their car and the vehicle in front of them. In poor driving conditions, such as low visibility, drivers should increase that count to four seconds.

Another rule of thumb is the following distance should be two car lengths in between vehicles.

The Trailing Driver Is At Fault in Most Rear-End Accidents

All licensed drivers are taught to stay a long distance behind the car in front so they can stop in time to avoid a collision. The driver in the back is almost always at fault for rear-end collisions because they were presumed to be following too closely and breaking the law. However, negligence on the trailing driver’s part must be shown to prove fault in a rear-end accident.

Driving behaviors that can cause the trailing driver to be found at fault for a rear-end accident include:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Driving under the influence
  • Drowsy driving      
  • Texting while driving
  • Road rage
  • Reckless driving
  • Failing to maintain brakes

Exceptions When the Lead Driver May Be At Fault for Getting Rear-Ended

Even though the law on rear-end collisions usually faults the driver at the back, several exceptions exist. An experienced car accident lawyer can help establish fault in complicated rear-end accident cases.

The following are exceptions in rear accidents when the lead driver may be at fault:

  • Lead driver abruptly reverses their vehicle.
  • Lead driver checks brakes or brakes suddenly.
  • Lead vehicle’s brake lights are not working.
  • Lead driver neglects to use hazard lights after breaking down.
  • Lead driver is distracted and not operating the vehicle steadily.
  • Lead driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Lead driver changes lanes without signaling.
  • Lead driver swerves or cuts off the rear driver.
  • Lead driver backs out of a parking space without looking.

Other Possible Scenarios in Rear-End Accidents

Drivers must always adjust to changing circumstances selves and others safe. While distracted driving is the most common cause of rear-end collisions, many scenarios can lead to an accident.

Other factors that may contribute to a rear-end accident include:

  • Unexpected change in weather.
  • Icy roads or flooding.
  • Number of other vehicles on the road.
  • Road construction.
  • Inadequate road signage.
  • Lack of working traffic lights.

What Happens if You Get Rear-Ended and Hit the Car in Front of You?

Rear-end accidents involving multiple vehicles are common on New Jersey highways. When one driver gets rear-ended and is pushed into the car in front of them, it can set off a chain reaction. While it is generally presumed that rear drivers are at fault for collisions with the car ahead, these cases are fact-specific. Liability also depends on each driver’s behaviors while operating their vehicles.

Determining fault in these scenarios is complex and a key aspect of recovered damages. It is advisable to work with a skilled car accident lawyer who knows the law and will protect your best interests.

What to Do When Someone Hits You From Behind

If someone hits you from behind in a rear-end accident, you should take the following steps:

  • If your car is in a hazardous position on the road, move it to a safe place if possible.
  • Call 911 so that police and EMTs are called to the scene.
  • Seek immediate medical attention, even if you have no apparent injuries.
  • Maintain copies of police reports and medical records.
  • Exchange information with other drivers and any eyewitnesses.
  • Contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible.

Recommended Resources:

Call a New Jersey Car Accident Lawyer at Kitrick, McWeeney & Wells, LLC

If you need legal help after a rear-end accident, speak with a New Jersey car accident lawyer at Kitrick, McWeeney & Wells, LLC. You can schedule a free consultation by calling us at 732-800-9474 or contacting us online. Located in Manasquan and Brick, New Jersey, we serve clients in Middlesex County, Atlantic County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, and Ocean County.