Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of car accidents on the roads today. These accidents often result in property damage, injuries, and even fatalities. Determining fault in a rear-end collision can be more straightforward compared to other types of accidents, but it still requires a thorough analysis of the circumstances, as well as any applicable laws.
How rear-end collisions occur
Rear-end collisions happen when one vehicle strikes the back of another. They can occur in various situations, but some common scenarios include:
- Sudden stops. A vehicle ahead of you comes to a sudden stop, such as for traffic or a red light, and you are unable to brake in time to avoid a collision. These sudden stops are more likely on heavily trafficked roads and in work zones.
- Tailgating. Following too closely behind the vehicle in front of you reduces reaction time, making it more likely that you won’t be able to stop in time to prevent a collision.
- Distracted driving. Using a smartphone, adjusting the radio, or engaging in other distractions can lead to delayed reactions and, in turn, rear-end collisions.
- Speeding. Driving over the speed limit can increase the distance it takes to come to a stop, which can result in rear-end collisions if traffic conditions change suddenly.
- Blind curves and hills. Drivers coming around a blind curve or cresting a hill, even if they are following the posted speed limits for that portion of the road, can end up rear-ending vehicles in front of them if traffic is stopped.
Determining fault in rear-end collisions
In many cases, determining fault in a rear-end collision seems straightforward because the driver who hits the vehicle in front of them is often held responsible. Most states, including Alabama, presume that the driver of the rear vehicle is at fault in a rear-end collision. This is based on the idea that the following driver should maintain a safe distance and exercise caution to avoid collisions. However, there are situations where the determination of fault may not be as clear-cut:
- The driver in front behaved in an unexpected way. While the rear driver is typically presumed at fault, the front driver may contribute to the accident’s causation. For example, if the front driver suddenly and unexpectedly slams on the brakes for no apparent reason, they could be found at fault.
- Multiple vehicles were involved in the collision. In situations where there are multiple vehicles involved, fault can be distributed differently, and it may not solely rest with the rear driver. For example, if drivers in another lane swerved into your lane, and the driver in front of you slammed on the brakes, then the swerving driver may bear some liability. If that swerving driver was behind the wheel of a semi-truck at the time, the company he or she works for could also share liability.
Common defenses in rear-end collision cases
Drivers involved in rear-end collisions may employ various defenses to challenge the presumption of fault. The rear driver may argue that the front driver’s actions were sudden and unforeseeable, leaving them with no reasonable opportunity to avoid the collision. If a child runs out into the middle of a street, for example, the driver in front will need to hit the brakes, and the driver in the back may not have any way to avoid the collision.
In some cases, a mechanical failure, such as a brake light malfunction, can be used as a defense by the rear driver. If the front driver’s brake lights were not functioning, it could be argued that the rear driver had no way of knowing that the vehicle was slowing down or stopping.
Steps to take after a rear-end collision
If you are involved in a rear-end collision, there are several important steps to take to protect your rights and gather evidence:
- Call 911. First, check for injuries. Ensure the safety of all parties involved. Even if you don’t feel immediate pain or injuries, it’s essential to seek medical attention as some injuries may not be immediately apparent. If it’s safe, move your vehicle off the road or to the shoulder.
- Contact law enforcement. If you do not alert the police through a 911 call, then report the accident to the local police or law enforcement agency. Request an accident report and make note of the responding officer’s name and badge number.
- Exchange information. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s) involved. Be sure to get the names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance details of everyone involved.
- Document the scene. If possible, take photos of the accident scene, including the position of the vehicles, damage, and any relevant road conditions or signage. DO NOT try to take photos if either traffic conditions are dangerous or you are in immediate need of medical care.
- Obtain witness information. If there are witnesses to the accident, gather their names and contact information. Their statements may be valuable later. Again, DO NOT attempt to gather witness statements if either traffic conditions are dangerous or you are in immediate need of medical care,
- Notify your insurance company. Promptly inform your insurance company about the accident and provide them with all the necessary information.
- Consult an attorney. If you believe that fault may be contested or you suffered significant injuries, it’s wise to consult with a Huntsville or Decatur personal injury lawyer. We are well-versed in state laws, including those in Alabama, and can navigate the legal system effectively to protect your rights.
How a Huntsville or Decatur injury attorney can help
In cases where fault is disputed or the rear driver is wrongly presumed at fault, consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney from Martin & Helms can be invaluable. We can conduct a thorough investigation of the accident, gather evidence, and interview witnesses to build a strong case. If your claim involves insurance companies – and if there are injuries, it almost certainly will – an attorney from our firm can negotiate on your behalf to secure fair compensation for your injuries and property damage. In cases where a lawsuit is necessary, we can represent you in court and present a compelling case to establish liability and secure the compensation you deserve.
If you find yourself involved in a rear-end collision, taking the right steps after the accident and seeking legal guidance can be crucial. An experienced accident attorney from Martin & Helms can help protect your rights, gather evidence, and negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses. Understanding the complexities of fault determination in rear-end collisions is vital to securing the compensation you deserve in the aftermath of such an accident.
If you or someone you love were injured in a rear-end collision, the attorneys at Martin & Helms want to help. To find out if you are eligible for compensation, schedule a free consultation with us today by calling our Huntsville or Decatur offices or filling out our contact form. We serve clients in Madison, Athens, and all of North Alabama.