Is the person in the back always at fault in a rear-end collision? Rear-end accidents are among the most common types of motor vehicle accidents that happen in Pennsylvania. In most rear-end collisions, the rear driver will be at fault for causing the accident because of his or her negligence. However, liability is not automatically assigned to the rear driver. In some cases, the front driver may be solely or partially at fault for causing the rear-end collision. At DiCindio Law, we can help you to determine who is at fault in a rear-end collision and explain the merits of your potential accident claim.
Negligence in a rear-end collision
To recover damages after a rear-end collision, you will need to prove that the other driver was negligent and caused the accident. The concept of negligence is based on the idea that everyone is expected to conduct themselves in a manner that keeps the best interests of others in mind. When someone fails in this duty and the violation of the duty causes an accident and injuries, they are considered to have acted negligently.
Proving negligence in a rear-end collision requires you to prove each of the legal elements that constitute a negligence cause of action by a preponderance of the evidence.
The elements of negligence include the following:
- The defendant had a duty of care that he or she owed to the plaintiff.
- The defendant’s actions violated the duty of care.
- The violation of the duty of care directly or approximately caused the accident and injuries.
- The plaintiff suffered actual harm as a result.
All motorists are considered to have a duty to operate their vehicles safely and carefully, which makes proving the first element of negligence fairly simple in most cases. After proving that the duty existed, you will then need to prove that the defendant’s actions violated the duty of care.
Motorists can breach the duty of care in many different ways, including the following:
- Driving too fast for the conditions
- Distracted driving
- Inattentive driving
- Impaired driving
- Failing to properly repair and maintain the vehicle
- Unsafe lane changes
If a driver violated traffic laws, it can help to prove that a breach of the duty of care occurred. However, you must still prove that the violation was the direct or proximate cause of your accident and injuries. For example, if the other driver was texting on his or her cell phone and slammed into the rear of your vehicle, the causation of your accident and injuries will be fairly easy to prove. However, if the driver violated an unrelated traffic law such as failing to wear his or her seatbelt, it will not be useful for proving causation. Finally, even if you prove that a breach occurred and that it caused your accident, you will still need to prove that you suffered actual harm. If you were not injured, you will not be able to recover damages in a personal injury action.
Determining fault in a rear-end collision
In most cases, people will assume that the rear drivers are at fault in rear-end collisions because they failed to follow at a safe distance so that they could stop in time. While this is true in many cases, there are some situations in which the front driver will be partially at fault or wholly at fault. For example, if someone is driving on a dark, rural road at night without functioning taillights and is rear-ended by someone who could not see his or her vehicle, the front driver will likely be found to be at fault for the accident. Similarly, if the front driver suddenly changed lanes directly in front of the rear driver’s car, causing the rear vehicle to collide with the front car’s back end, the front driver will likely be found to be at fault.
Front drivers may also share some of the fault in some cases. For example, if a driver suddenly stops to turn left but does not execute the turn, both drivers may share liability for the accident. Drivers whose vehicles suffer malfunctions and who fail to turn on their hazard lights might also be found to be partly to blame for their accidents. In those types of situations, the jury will determine the percentage of fault to attribute to each driver.
Understanding comparative negligence
In rear-end collisions in which both drivers shared fault, both will have varying degrees of negligence for the accidents. Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, plaintiffs who share some of the fault for their accidents are not barred from recovering damages as long as their degree of fault does not exceed the fault attributed to the other drivers. Their damages will be reduced by a percentage equal to the percentage of fault that is attributed to them.
For example, if you are awarded $100,000 by a jury that finds that you were 30% at fault, your damages will be reduced by 30% for a net recovery amount of $70,000. However, if your fault is determined to be 51%, you will not be able to recover any damages for your losses.
In some rear-end accidents, more than one party might be liable. In those cases, the jury will determine the percentage of fault held by each of the liable parties. Each party will then be responsible for paying the percentage of damages assigned to him or her.
Get help from an experienced accident attorney
Being injured in a rear-end accident might leave you facing mounting medical expenses, losses of income, and other losses. If your accident was caused by the negligence of someone else, you may be able to recover damages for your losses. An experienced lawyer can help you to determine liability for your accident so that you can understand whether your claim has merits. Contact an attorney at DiCindio Law today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.