Who is at Fault in a Rear End Collision? A Helpful Guide

Every year in the U.S., more than 6 million car accidents are reported to the police. Of those accidents, around 1.7 million are rear-end collisions.

It’s clear, rear-end collisions are some of the most common types of accidents on roadways today. From minor, slow-speed fender benders at stop signs to major pile-ups on highways, these accidents account for nearly 2,000 deaths each year.

Usually in an accident, the person responsible is obvious. Perhaps a car runs a stop sign, causing an oncoming vehicle to t-bone it. Or a vehicle is trailing too close behind the car in front of it. When the front car comes to halt, the trailing car collides.

But what happens when the cause of your rear-end collision isn’t so obvious? Keep reading to learn how to determine who is at fault.

Who Is Usually at Fault in Rear-End Collisions?

Some kinds of accidents are more difficult to determine fault in than others. But when it comes to rear-end collisions, the at-fault driver is almost always the one in the back.

Rear-ending another vehicle usually happens because the back car is traveling too close to the one in front of it.

Sometimes, the driver who rear-ends the other car will try to argue that the front car shouldn’t have hit their breaks. In reality, it doesn’t matter why the front car stopped or slowed.

Drivers are responsible for maintaining a safe distance between the front of their car and the back of the one in front of them. A safe distance is one that allows them to stop in time if the front car slams on their breaks unexpectedly.

If a rear-end collision occurs, it’s usually because the car in the back did not leave a safe distance.

It’s our responsibility as drivers to do what we can to prevent accidents, especially those that can be easily avoided like most rear-end collisions. Keeping up with accident news can help us better understand how dangerous poor driving can be.

Talk to Law Enforcement

If you get rear-ended, one of the first things you should do after you move to a safe space is to call law enforcement.

Not only will police officers help you move the vehicles out of traffic or coordinate with an ambulance, if necessary, but they’ll also help figure out who is at fault.

Sometimes, rear-end collisions aren’t black and white.

Maybe two cars tried to merge into the same lane from opposite sides of the road. Or a car turned onto a road in front of an oncoming vehicle. The driver that turned might argue that the other car was coming too fast, while the other driver might say that the turning car didn’t look towards oncoming traffic.

By talking with anyone involved in the accident and witnesses, as well as studying the crime scene, officers are often able to determine who is at fault, even if it isn’t immediately clear.

What to Do If You’re in a Rear-End Collision

If you’ve been involved in a rear-end collision, whether you caused it or were a victim, you probably have tons of questions. 

Check out the rest of our blog to learn more about roadway laws, what you need to do if you’ve been involved in a car accident and which collision center you should bring your car to.