Young woman talks on a cell phone after getting into a rear-end collision

Who Is At Fault For a Rear-End Collision?

There are seemingly endless ways in which car accidents occur. One of the most common types of crashes is the rear-end collision. A rear-end collision occurs when the front end of one vehicle collides with the rear of another.

Rear-end collisions account for about 23% of all car accidents, which results in roughly 2,000 deaths and 950,000 injuries each year.

You may think the driver in the rear is always automatically 100% at fault for a rear-end collision.

Think again.

It is possible that the driver in the rear will share some of the responsibility for the collision, but the liability in rear-end collisions is not as cut-and-dry as it may seem. Read on to learn more.

Negligence Always Determines Fault in Rear-End Collisions

Negligence is “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances. The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act.”

Essentially, a person is negligent when he or she fails to act with a reasonable degree of care.

The Five Elements of Negligence in Texas

In order to prove negligence in a Texas car accident case, you must be able to prove that these five elements existed:

  • Duty
    • The driver who caused the accident owed you a duty to act or not act in a certain way.
  • Breach of duty
    • The driver who caused the accident acted in ways that failed to live up to their duty.
  • Cause in fact
    • You were in fact injured due to the other driver’s breach of duty.
  • Proximate cause
    • Whether a reasonable person would determine that the driver’s actions were dangerous and thus, unacceptable.
  • Damages
    • You must suffer actual hardship that can be compensated by the civil justice system.

All drivers owe each other a duty to exercise reasonable care while operating a motor vehicle. This is important because, in order to establish negligence in a car accident case, you must first be able to prove that the other driver owed you a duty of care.

Next, you must be able to prove that the other driver breached their duty of care, which caused a collision. A driver may breach his or her duty of care in several ways, including (but not limited to):

  • Failing to pay attention to the road and watch out for hazards
  • Failing to follow at a reasonable distance
  • Failing to travel at a reasonable speed
  • Failing to keep control of the vehicle
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Failing to use blinker(s)
  • Failing to stop within a reasonable amount of time

Then, you must be able to prove the other driver’s breach of duty caused the collision.

Last, you need to demonstrate that you were left with actual damages, such as bodily injury or property damage, as a result of the collision.

Texas Operates Under Modified Comparative Fault Rules

In Texas, the modified comparative negligence rules are also referred to as “proportionate responsibility.” Essentially, this means that your recoverable damages may be reduced if you are found partially responsible for the incident causing your injuries.

Consider this scenario: You’re driving down a Dallas road while checking a text on your phone. Suddenly, you’re struck by a vehicle that ran a stop sign. In this case, the court could determine that you were 40% responsible for the crash. If you are awarded $20,000 in damages, the award would be reduced by 40% or $8,000.

In addition, Texas operates under the 51% bar rule. In essence, if you are deemed 51% or more responsible for your injury-sustaining accident, you will be unable to collect any damages.

The Driver In the Rear Is Not Always Completely At Fault for a Rear-End Collision

You may think rear-end collisions always occur as a result of the driver in the rear’s inattention to the road. While this is a leading cause of rear-end collisions, there is a whole slew of other scenarios that can lead to these types of accidents.

The leading driver may share a portion of the blame for a rear-end collision if any of the following scenarios occur:

  • The driver suddenly backs up
  • “Brake-checking” the driver in the rear (hitting the brakes with great force for no valid purpose)
  • The driver stops unexpectedly to make a turn and doesn’t actually execute the turn
  • The driver’s brake lights or other vehicular equipment is faulty
  • The driver experiences a flat tire or another equipment difficulty but fails to pull over or engage the car’s hazard signals

With that said, the rear driver in a rear-end collision will almost always share a portion of the blame because all drivers are expected to follow other vehicles at a safe distance. This is because drivers commonly need to suddenly and unexpectedly slow down or stop in order to avoid a road hazard or traffic congestion. All drivers must leave enough space between vehicles to prevent collisions if an unanticipated stop becomes necessary.

Tips to Avoid Rear-End Collisions

#1 - Don’t tailgate.

You’re tailgating when you follow the vehicle ahead of you more closely than you should. Tailgating is very risky and can easily lead to rear-end collisions and other accidents.

#2 - Keep an eye on your rearview mirror when you suddenly have to slow down or stop.

When you have to suddenly slow down or stop, if you notice the vehicle behind you is not reducing its speed as much as it should, you may be able to quickly move out of the way into the shoulder or another lane so that you don’t get rear-ended.

The key here is to make a habit out of checking your rear-view mirror each time you must come to a panic stop or slow down suddenly.

#3 - Leave more distance between vehicles when driving in the rain or snow.

It is significantly more difficult to slow down and stop when driving in the rain or snow, so it’s important to leave a lot more distance between vehicles during inclement weather. Pay close attention to what’s going on so that you notice the puddles on the road in the rain and black ice in the snow.

As a good general rule, you should triple your driving distance when it’s wet outside, and leave at least a football field length between vehicles when driving in the snow.

#4 - Try to avoid panic stops when possible.

If traffic seems heavier than usual, it may be wise to increase your driving distance. When traffic becomes congested, panic stops are relatively common. If you have lots of space between your vehicle and the one ahead of you, you will have plenty of time to react if a panic stop should occur.

#5 - Check your mirrors often.

If you notice the driver behind you is tailgating, simply move over and let the driver pass. The last thing you want is to aggravate the situation by not letting the driver get ahead of you. This can easily lead to road rage, which can have serious consequences.

We’re Here to Help

If you’ve been injured in a rear-end collision through no fault of your own, you may be owed compensation. Our team wants to see that you recover the benefits you are entitled to. Don’t delay—reach out right away to learn how we can help.

Call our firm today at (512) 400-3278 or fill out the online contact form to learn more about your options.