We see people down the road on their phones, getting distracted by kids, fiddling with the radio, trying to pick stuff off the floor, lighting a cigarette, focusing on eating their lunch, and more. They drive most people crazy! But you are not that person. You’re a good and safe driver who saves the phone for home, focuses on the road, follows speed limits and stops at stop signs; you’re a safe driver careful not to put yourself and others at risk. But no matter how vigilant you are, you could be involved in an accident. It’s even worse if you’re the one who hits the car in front of you.
Rear-end collisions are very common among collisions involving two vehicles. The National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] estimates that rear-end collisions account for 1/3 to 1/2 of all motor vehicle accidents that involving two vehicles. So, up to half of car accidents involve a driver hitting another car from behind. But who’s at fault? What if the person in front just slams on their brakes for no apparent reason? The clue is in who collided with whom.
Who is the At-Fault person in a Rear-End Collision?
Most often, the driver who hit the vehicle from behind will be held responsible. It’s a good rule of thumb. Why, when they slammed on their brakes for no apparent reason; it hardly seems fair. Because in car insurance, and other areas of life, there’s a legal term called “duty of care”. According to Law.com the definition is:
“duty of care: n. a requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would use. If a person's actions do not meet this standard of care, then the acts are considered negligent, and any damages resulting may be claimed in a lawsuit for negligence.”
In plain English, it means that we are all supposed to and are expected to avoid getting into such situations. It’s considered a “reasonable standard of care” while we’re driving. We have a “duty of care” to be a responsible driver when we’re behind the wheel of a car. As drivers, we are expected to execute safe and defensive driving tactics, which include:
· Going the speed limit
· Controlling our car
· Maintaining safe distances between our car and the vehicles in front of us
· Following and obeying the rules of the road
· Being watchful and prepared for unexpected changes in the behavior of other drivers
If you fail to maintain reasonable care while you are driving, generally, law enforcement officials (and insurance companies) find you negligent/at fault. Therefore, any collisions that occur from failing to uphold “duty of care” most likely end up making you liable. Even in this example of colliding with a driver from behind who suddenly slammed on his brakes, it will likely be determined that you weren’t maintaining a safe distance and that you were not prepared for sudden changes in the flow of traffic.
Otherwise stated, in the eyes of the law, even if the other driver slammed on his brakes out of nowhere, if you had kept a safe distance and were prepared for changes in driving patterns then you might have been able to avoid it. You would have been able to react with enough time, and there would have been enough space between you and the other vehicle to come to a complete stop.
In this case, you can expect that your car insurance would have to foot the bill for any damages to your vehicle, as well as any damages to the vehicle you collided with. You will also likely see an increase in your insurance rates.
Rear driver found at fault most of the time.
Mostly, the rear driver will be considered at fault in a rear-end collision. There are some instances when the driver of the vehicle in front can be held responsible but it’s often tough to prove. In these types of scenarios, there’s a chance that the driver operating the vehicle you rear-ended will be held liable:
- The brake lights on the front vehicle were not working
- The driver stopped in the middle of the road because of damage to the vehicle, and did not issue a warning of stopping (failed to use hazard lights) or pull over
- The driver reversed suddenly and without warning at a stop sign or traffic light
- The driver suddenly stopped to make a turn, but ended up not turning
- The driver pulled out into traffic, not leaving enough space for the cars behind him to react to the presence of his vehicle
How to Avoid Rear-End Collisions
The best ways to avoid a rear-end collisions are to make sure that you keep a safe distance between your car and the cars in front of you; keep your eyes on the road; always be prepared to react by consciously avoiding distractions.
What if You’re Rear-Ended?
If able, now it’s time to pull out your cell phone. Take pictures of the accident before the cars are moved, if possible (point of impact, damage, license plates) then call the police. Also, share your information and snap pictures of their information (Driver’s License, Insurance Card). Don’t discuss the incident, just contact their insurance carrier to report the claim, keeping it clear and concise. Get a copy of the police report when it’s available. Keep it and the paperwork from the other carrier five years as your proof of not at fault. If they do not have insurance many states have reporting
We’d all rather not be involved in any kind of accident, but if you are then deal with it promptly and courteously, getting their license and insurance information and sharing yours.
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