Toll free866-434-5840
Toll Free 866-434-5840
Local 251-265-1000

The Basics of Proving Fault in a Rear End Accident

This type of crash is not always straightforward

Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of car accidents in Alabama and across the U.S. Cars are hit from behind while stopped at traffic lights or rear-ended on highways by distracted drivers. A rear-end accident may occur when a reckless driver changes lanes, clipping the bumper of another vehicle.

This type of crash can cause devastating injuries – even at speeds below 20 mph. For rear-end car accident victims this frequently means pain, high medical bills, and missed work. For liable insurance companies this means paying out a substantial settlement - and they don’t like doing that.

That’s why, although it may seem clear who is at fault in a rear-end accident, you cannot rely on the insurance company to admit fault and accept liability. Rear-end collisions are among the hardest fought claims by insurance companies. It is typical of an adjuster to question the severity of injuries and who caused the crash. At Dean Waite & Associates LLC, our Alabama car accident lawyers know how to fight back. We build strong claims that clearly prove the other driver is at fault. The key is to collect evidence the insurance companies cannot ignore.

Is the car in back always at fault in a rear end crash?

In most rear-end collision scenarios, the driver of the trailing vehicle is typically found at fault. Drivers in back are expected to maintain a safe following distance that allows them to stop in time to avoid colliding with the car in front. However, there are scenarios in which the driver in the lead vehicle is at fault. Insurance companies use these somewhat rare occurrences as an excuse to blame rear end crash victims and get out of taking responsibility for damages. If you were injured as the lead driver in a rear-end crash, the insurance company may attempt to shift blame by claiming that you made a:

  • Sudden reversal of direction.
  • Sudden and unnecessary stop – “brake checking.”
  • Malfunctioning brake lights.
  • Sudden lane change by the lead driver without adequate warning.

The 4 elements of fault

The law has clearly defined what must be true to constitute fault. Specifically, there are four elements that the injured party must demonstrate:

  • Duty. The driver owed a legal duty to the injured victim, which is to follow the law and drive safely to avoid harming others. In the case of a rear end accident, this typically involves allowing enough space between vehicles to avoid a collision.
  • Breach of duty. It must be shown that the other driver failed to fulfill their duty to others. A driver may breach their duty by disobeying traffic laws, driving drunk or distracted, or another type of negligent behavior.
  • Causation. It was this breach of duty that caused the accident. Extensive evidence is often necessary to connect the other driver’s actions to causing a rear-end crash.
  • Damages. The victim suffered injuries or losses. The insurance company makes collecting damages difficult by questioning the necessity of medical treatment, the severity of the injury, and long-term effects.

An experienced rear end accident attorney understands these elements and conducts a thorough investigation to prove all of these elements.

Collecting and analyzing evidence

Injured victims are often forced to fight hard to prove to insurance companies that they are entitled to compensation. Typically, the best way to do this is by collecting as much evidence as possible for a strong claim. Common evidence in rear end accident claims includes:

  • Police accident reports. An official report containing details of the accident, statements, and initial assessments.
  • Photographic evidence. Photos of the accident scene, vehicle damage, road conditions, and injuries.
  • Video footage. Surveillance or dashcam footage capturing the accident as it happened.
  • Witness statements. Testimony from individuals who saw the accident occur.
  • Time-stamped navigation data. GPS or telematics data showing vehicle locations and speeds at the time of the accident.
  • Cell phone records. Logs that could indicate if a driver was on the phone or texting during the accident.
  • Skid mark analysis. Measurements and analyses that can indicate vehicle speeds and movements before the collision.
  • Expert testimony. In many cases, especially when injuries and vehicle damage are substantial, the input of accident reconstruction experts becomes indispensable. These experts can analyze the crash dynamics to determine factors such as speed, angles of impact, and force distribution. Such technical analysis can provide compelling evidence to support the claim that the trailing driver, or in some instances, the leading driver, was at fault.

Remember, the availability and relevance of each type of evidence can vary depending on the specifics of the accident and the jurisdictional laws.

Injury type indicating fault

While a victim can sustain just about any type of injury in a car accident, some injuries are more associated with specific types of crashes than others. Understanding the mechanisms of how crash injuries occur means that some injuries are a good indication of fault. Common rear end accident injuries that may demonstrate fault include:

  • Whiplash. Medical records proving whiplash, alongside the accident’s dynamics, can show the force of impact from behind, typically corroborating the scenario where the following vehicle hit the lead vehicle too hard, indicating the following driver’s fault.
  • Concussions. Diagnosis of a concussion can be used to suggest a violent jolt or collision from the rear, supporting the claim that the trailing driver collided with the lead vehicle with significant force, suggesting negligence on their part.
  • Soft tissue injuries. Medical documentation of soft tissue injuries can demonstrate the severity of the impact, often indicating that the trailing driver failed to maintain a safe distance or speed, contributing to the cause of the accident.
  • Back injuries. Back injuries resulting from a rear-end collision can highlight the force of impact. Medical evaluations and treatments for these injuries can help in building a case against the trailing driver, pointing to a failure to stop or slow down.
  • Spinal cord injuries. The presence of spinal cord injuries can be significant evidence of the high-impact nature of a crash, usually implicating the trailing driver for hitting the leading vehicle at a high speed or without attempting to brake.
  • Traumatic brain injuries. TBIs can indicate that the victim’s head was violently shaken or struck during the accident, usually a result of a high-speed rear-end impact.

Aggressive negotiation for maximum compensation

Proving fault is not just about presenting evidence but also about effectively negotiating with insurance companies and, if necessary, litigating the case in court. Getting the compensation you need after a car accident is a complex and difficult process - and the insurance companies know it inside and out. You need to contact an experienced attorney to level the playing field. Based in Mobile, AL, the lawyers at Dean Waite & Associates LLC know how the claims process works and will advocate for your needs every step of the way. Call today for your free case evaluation.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this article, “The Basics of Proving Fault in a Rear-End Accident.”