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Determining Who Is Liable In a Rear-end Collision

After a rear-end collision, attention generally turns to the driver who was in the back when it comes to blame. However, assuming that the rear driver is always at fault can result in legal claims filed against the wrong party. Instead, the situation should be closely examined to determine the true negligent party or parties. The following are some examples of different parties that may be liable in a rear-end collision.

Negligence on the part of the rear driver

Most often, fault is assigned to the back driver in a rear-end collision and it is true that drivers can be negligent and crash into the rear of another vehicle. Some acts of negligence include:

  • Distracted driving,[1] especially visual distractions such as texting, reading, personal grooming, or reaching into the backseat.
  • Tailgating, speeding, or other aggressive driving behaviors.
  • Drunk driving, which can cause a driver to misjudge speed, distance from another vehicle, or the time necessary to stop or slow down without hitting the driver in front of them.
  • Driving while overly fatigued, which can cause a driver to lose concentration on the traffic in front of them or even to fall asleep at the wheel. 

Negligence on the part of the front driver

Though rear-end collisions are most often blamed on the back driver, the driver of the front vehicle may also be at fault in many situations. The following are examples of front driver negligence:

  • Distracted driving, which causes them to have to slam on their brakes to avoid a collision, thereby causing the car behind them to crash into their rear.
  • Frequent or unnecessary lane changes, cutting off other vehicles, or other dangerous aggressive driving[2] behaviors that do not give a car adequate time to stop.
  • Failure to repair tail lights so the vehicle is difficult to see at night or in adverse weather, or failure to repair brake lights so the rear vehicle cannot tell when the front driver is stopping or slowing.
  • Failure to properly merge at intersections.
  • Trucks that do not have the necessary visibility markings on the back of their trailers, leading to serious rear-end truck accidents.

Negligence by a third party

In addition to the two drivers involved, other parties may also be negligent and, therefore, be liable for the damage and injuries in a rear-end collision. Some of these parties include as follows:

  • Auto manufacturers who produce and sell defective car parts can cause rear-end accidents since tire blowouts or brake failures can cause a driver to lose control of the car and slam into the car in front of them.
  • Government entities that fail to properly maintain or repair roadways. This is because hitting uneven pavement, potholes, or substantial cracks can also cause a driver to lose control of the car.
  • Accidents or broken down cars that are stopped in the middle of the road can cause a sudden traffic pileup during which rear-end collisions may occur.
  • Children or other pedestrians that suddenly step into the path of traffic can cause a driver to slam on the brakes, causing subsequent drivers to crash in the rear of the first car.
  • Other drivers may cause rear-end accidents if they suddenly cut off a car, run a red light, or engage in other dangerous behavior that requires a driver to suddenly brake, causing a chain reaction.

Find out how a St. Petersburg auto accident lawyer can assist you

Following an accident, fault may not be obvious and you may not know what to do or be aware of your rights to recovery. An experienced auto accident attorney from the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA in St. Petersburg can evaluate your situation, conduct investigation, and help you determine whether you have the right to financial recovery from the other driver or a third party. Even if you were partially at fault for your accident, you may still be able to recover under Florida law,[3] so you should never hesitate to schedule a free consultation. Call today at 727-222-6922 to discuss whether you have a potential legal claim.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
1663 1st Ave S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
(727) 472-3909


[1] http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html
[2] http://www.nhtsa.gov/Aggressive
[3] http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0768/Sections/0768.81.html