A rear-end collision is an auto accident where the front end of one vehicle crashes into the rear end of another vehicle. Victims of these accidents can suffer serious bodily harm and property damage. While the rear driver usually bears the fault for the accident, many things come into play when determining who’s at fault in rear-end collision accidents.
Factors Impacting Who’s at Fault in Rear-End Collision Situations
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions are the most common crashes around the nation and in Arizona. Around 32.5% of all collisions are rear-end accidents, and these lead to 31.1% of all injuries and 7% of traffic fatalities. Close to 120,000 accidents occur each year in Arizona, with around 38,697 of these being rear-end accidents.
Several things influence driver safety when traveling through Arizona. These can also increase the risk of rear-end collisions.
Putting attention on something other than driving leads to distracted driving. Activities like eating or drinking, texting, talking on the phone and fiddling with the radio can take a driver’s eyes off the road. This can cause them to forget or ignore how close they are to the vehicle in front of them.
When going faster than the speed limit or driving too quickly for road conditions, it takes longer to slow down and come to a stop. When speeding is combined with distracted driving, a driver may not have enough reaction time to come to a stop or slow down in time to avoid hitting the car in front of them.
Drivers need to pay close attention to the road conditions and traffic during different weather patterns. In rain, snow, ice or fog, it’s important to drive slowly even if that means going below the speed limit. Close to 9,500 crashes occur in Arizona because of wet, snowy or icy road conditions. These conditions can make it easier to accidentally slide into the back of another vehicle when trying to slow down or stop.
A driver who operates a vehicle after consuming drugs, medications or alcohol could be at fault in a rear-end collision. These substances can impair a driver’s vision, judgment, and reaction time, but they can also increase behaviors like weaving between lanes, tailgating or speeding. These also contribute to the potential for a rear-end collision.
Following Too Closely
Under Arizona law, drivers must keep their vehicles a safe distance from other vehicles on the road. The terms used in the law are “reasonable” and “prudent,” which include taking into account the speed of vehicles, the condition of the highway and the amount of traffic on the road. Not leaving enough distance between vehicles or neglecting to monitor the road conditions can lead to rear-end collisions.
Individual Actions Contributing to Who’s At Fault in Rear-End Collisions
Because of the nature of rear-end collisions, it’s often assumed that the driver of the vehicle in the back bears full responsibility for causing the accident. While this is often the case, there are some situations where the motorist in the front car could be found responsible.
At-Fault Front Vehicle Drivers
There are a few circumstances where the actions of the driver in the front car contribute to a rear-end collision:
- The driver put their vehicle in reverse.
- The driver stopped suddenly and with no reason.
- The driver made a lane change quickly but without the use of a turn signal and by pulling in front of an oncoming vehicle even though it wasn’t safe to do so.
- The driver suddenly slowed down to make a turn without using a turn signal.
- The driver didn’t use their hazard lights when driving slower than the speed limit or when their car broke down.
- The driver operated a vehicle without working brakes or brake lights.
Because of the complex nature of tort law, legal help is often needed to determine eligibility for compensation in a rear-end collision. The court looks at the actions of all drivers involved when determining fault and responsibility for compensation, as well as the damages and losses from the accident.
Common Injuries From a Rear-End Collision
Rear-end accidents aren’t generally associated with life-threatening injuries, but the force of the impact can still cause serious injuries that impact your physical abilities for the rest of your life. Mild and severe injuries can include damage to the spine, shoulders, head or other areas. You could also have pre-existing conditions that worsen because of the accident.
The extent of your injuries and the impact they have on your ability to work and maintain a normal lifestyle factor into the compensation you may seek with representation from a Phoenix personal injury lawyer. The expenses of receiving medical treatment, losing time at work, making accommodations for a permanent disability and more are the responsibility of who’s at fault in a rear-end collision.
Neck injuries are common in rear-end accidents, and whiplash occurs when the head and neck are suddenly and violently thrown forward. Although it may seem minor at the time, neck pain and soreness can last for a week or longer. Accident victims with whiplash can lose range of motion, experience nerve damage and experience long-term problems with pain.
Pain in the back is another common injury from a rear-end collision, with sprains and strains often needing medical attention. Muscles and ligaments can get pulled, stretched, torn or twisted, leading to cramping, pain and a decreased range of motion.
The discs in your spine could also fall out of place due to the impact. Slipped or herniated discs can cause muscle weakness, tingling or numbness and pain in the legs or arms. If not treated quickly and properly, this injury can lead to more serious complications over time.
Determination of Fault
Car accident scenarios vary, with unique situations and details for each case. The actions of the drivers involved lead to the determinations of fault for the accident, influencing whose insurance pays for the damages or where the court may side when issuing settlements.
In an at-fault state like Arizona, the driver responsible for causing the car accident is the party responsible for paying for the losses and damages of those injured in the accident. A person injured in a car accident can seek compensation from the other driver under this state’s tort law. This is contrasted with no-fault states, in which the driver’s insurance policy pays for the losses sustained from a crash regardless of who caused the accident.
In Arizona, a personal injury lawsuit filed in civil court can help the injured person recover damages from the one who caused the accident. However, the court uses comparative negligence for decision-making.
When evaluating an accident using comparative negligence, a person can be 99% at fault for an accident but still be eligible to recover some damages from the other driver for the 1% of negligence they showed. Comparative negligence looks at the actions or inactions of both parties involved and assigns portions of liability to each.
This is why it’s important to consult a personal injury lawyer over your options for compensation following an auto accident. Determining who’s at fault in rear-end collision accidents isn’t always clear-cut, and comparative negligence could impact how much an award or settlement is worth.
For example, if a person is speeding while driving through Phoenix and gets hit by a drunk driver who loses control of the car, there are extenuating circumstances to consider. Though the injured driver may have been hurt because of the drunk driver, a jury may consider how the speed of the first driver impacted the severity of the injuries.
A jury or judge could find the first driver’s reckless speed as an influencing factor in the cause of the accident. While the drunk driver may hold the biggest percentage of the fault, the final settlement could be limited on account of the influence of speeding in the accident.
Finding who is at fault in a rear-end accident gets more complicated when there are multiple vehicles involved. If several cars are traveling in one lane and the first car stops suddenly, the second car following behind is likely to rear-end the first car. The sudden stop from this impact can cause a third car to rear-end the second car. If this happens, arguments could be made to divide the fault between the second and third car drivers.
Help Preserve Fault in a Rear-End Accident
When pursuing a personal injury claim for a rear-end accident in Arizona, the victim has the burden of proof. This means if you are the one who suffered bodily injury and property damages, you must present evidence to the court that supports the other driver being held liable for the accident.
Since the judge or jury will take into account the negligence of all parties involved, you should speak to an experienced Phoenix car accident attorney about your potential fault and the impact on the case. Here’s what to do right after you’ve been in a rear-end collision.
Though being in an accident is painful and stressful, you need to take immediate steps to protect your rights for compensation. While you are still at the scene of the accident, there are several crucial pieces of information to gather if you are physically able:
- The name and contact information for any other drivers involved
- The name of the insurance company and policy information for the other driver involved
- Contact information and statements from anyone who witnessed the accident
- Name of responding police officer and the incident report number
It’s always helpful to keep a pen and small notebook in your car for these situations, but with smartphones, collecting information is easy. You can text yourself the information, send an email or type the information into a notetaking app.
Take Pictures or Video
When there is photographic evidence of the scene, it’s a lot easier for a jury to decide who’s at fault in a rear-end collision in Arizona. Photos can be taken from your phone or tablet, or you can use dashcam footage of the accident. When taking pictures or video, be sure to include the scene of the accident as well as the cars and any injuries that occurred.
Take pictures of where the cars are sitting right after the accident. If the cars were moved because of safety concerns, at least take close-up pictures of the damage on each vehicle. The more clear and specific your photos, the better the images can help reveal what happened during the accident.
Get Medical Care
As the victim of a rear-end collision, it’s important to seek medical care right away. If someone has called 911 at the scene of the accident, first responders will typically come and assess your injuries. If severe, they may recommend you take an ambulance to the emergency room for treatment. Even if your injuries aren’t serious, see your physician or a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Seeking medical care and having documentation for your injuries will help support your claim if you seek compensation for the accident. Waiting to get medical care can give the perception that the accident wasn’t severe enough to disrupt your life or leave you with pain. Keep documentation for all your appointments, therapies, hospital stays or other activities related to your injuries.
Stay Off Social Media
When a judge or jury decides which driver has legal liability for the accident, it’s important to avoid any activities that could hurt your case. Keep pictures of your accident and any subsequent activities off of social media. Don’t talk about your case or injuries. You can protect the integrity of your claim and keep your personal information from coming under questioning by the opposition during a lawsuit.
Guidance With Litigation Over Who’s at Fault in a Rear-End Collision
If you’re the victim of a car accident and need help showing who’s at fault in a rear-end collision in Arizona, turn to the experience of the Sargon Law Group. Contact us to find out what compensation your injuries are eligible for.