When it comes to a rear end car accident case, most people assume that the driver who rear-ended the car in front of them is automatically at fault. That’s why one of the most common forms of insurance fraud is the “swoop and squat,” where someone zips in front of you and stops suddenly, while another car rides right next to you so you can’t swerve out of the way — deliberately causing you to rear-end the first car.

But if you hit someone from behind, are you always at fault? You may be relieved to know that this isn’t always the case. Police officers have seen it all, so they’re aware of potential mitigating circumstances. Even if you may be partly at fault for a rear end car accident, the other driver(s) may be at fault as well.

Let’s look closer at rear-end collisions, and how fault can play out.

You May Not Be at Fault in a Rear End Car Accident

We’re sure you can think of situations in which you might rear-end someone because of their own actions, aside from the “swoop and squat.” For example, what if the other driver fails to turn on their lights in adverse driving conditions, like a hard rain or fog? You might never even see them until it’s too late, especially if they stop suddenly. Similarly, they may have allowed their lights to fail without replacing them.

The above situations, if you can prove them — for example, with a dash-cam, or by demonstrating their taillights don’t function — should result in tickets for them, not you. Other unsafe behavior that could cause you to rear-end someone can include them:

  • Texting or talking on the phone.
  • Changing lanes suddenly and unsafely.
  • Cutting you off and then having to stop suddenly.
  • Driving slowly or erratically.
  • Stopping in a driving lane and turning off their car.
  • Failing to use hazard lights if the car stalls out and they can’t get it out of the road.

Be sure to mention any observations that support these possibilities to the investigating officer(s).

Rear End Car Accidents With Multiple Cars

Multi-car accidents are common, especially in adverse weather conditions. We’ve all heard of massive pile-ups due to heavy fog, especially on bridges, where there’s nowhere to divert to. Without an admission of guilt, the police officers on the scene may have trouble determining fault. In cases like these, they may ticket all involved and let a court sort it out, in which case it’s best to have witnesses to support your side of the story.

Determining Negligence

Just because you’ve rear-ended someone, don’t assume you’re at fault. Make your case and let the police sort it out.

So how will the officers determine whether or not you’re to blame? In addition to examining the scene, they’ll question you about what you were doing at the time of the accident. If they determine you were doing what any reasonable driver would do, they probably won’t charge you with negligence. If it’s clear you were eating while driving, talking on the phone, trying to put on makeup, driving too fast for the conditions, failed to use a turn signal while changing lanes, or failed to yield right-of-way when you should have, you’ll be assigned some percentage of negligence.

Comparative Negligence

Both the states we serve, Colorado and Texas, use comparative negligence to determine blame, especially when multiple cars are involved in an accident. Typically, you can’t recover damages if the police determine you were 51% or more at fault. This may vary if three or more cars were involved. Comparative negligence can be difficult to determine in a rear end car accident, though, so you may have the ability to fight it in court. You very much need to determine who was at fault, because otherwise your premiums and finances can be severely impacted.

Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer About Your Rear End Car Accident Case

If you’ve been in a rear end accident and believe you’re not at fault, call Brylak Law today. We can help you with your case.