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Can I Be Found Liable If My Car Is Rear-Ended in a Crash?

Rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accident in the United States. In fact, there are more than 1.7 million rear-end crashes every year. It’s generally believed that the driver who does the rear-ending is automatically at fault. While this is more often than not true, it is not always the case. It is possible to be liable for an accident if you are rear-ended in a crash.

Facts About Rear-End Collisions in Los Angeles

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 29 percent of all car accidents involve rear-end collisions. Studies authorized by the agency have revealed interesting information and rear-end car accident statistics.

  • 81 percent of rear-end crashes occur when the front/lead vehicle is completely stopped
  • 64 percent of rear-end crashes are caused by rear drivers who glance away from the road for more than 2 seconds
  • 87 percent of rear-end crashes involve distracted drivers
  • Men, aged 24-35, are approximately 2 times more likely than other drivers to be involved in a rear-end crash.

Why Is the Rear Driver Usually Liable for a Rear-End Car Accident?

When you drive, you have a responsibility to use caution and obey local traffic laws. In California, you must leave a safe distance between yourself and the car in front of you. Specifically, Vehicle Code 21703 VC explains that you must not “follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent.”  Whether or not the distance you leave between vehicles is reasonable and prudent will depend on many factors, including:

  • Speed
  • Traffic, and
  • Road conditions.

According to the California DMV, you should leave a gap of at least 3 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. If you’re merging into traffic, you need to leave a gap of at least 4 seconds.

Leaving this space gives you time to stop if the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly or without unexpectedly.

Many rear-end crashes happen because drivers are negligent and don’t leave a safe distance between vehicles. This is why the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is usually liable for a rear-end collision.

Exceptions to Rear Driver Liability

Failure to leave a safe stopping distance and distractions behind the wheel are leading causes of rear-end collisions in Los Angeles. The rear driver will generally be liable for damage caused in these situations. However, there are times when the front/lead driver may be to blame.

As a lead/front driver, you could be liable for a rear-end accident if you:

  • Didn’t have working tail lights and brake lights
  • Stop suddenly for no reason and remain stopped
  • Stop or slow down to make a turn, but do not turn
  • Drive in reverse
  • Fail to use your hazards to communicate with other drivers, or
  • Are distracted and fail to move through an intersection after a traffic light turns green.

Does this mean that the front/lead driver is always responsible for an accident in these situations? No. These are simply factors that could transfer some or all of the fault for an accident to the lead driver. Determining fault will require a full and thorough investigation in the accident. All factors, including negligence of everyone involved, must be considered.

I Am Liable If I’m Rear Ended and Pushed Into Another Vehicle?

You’re sitting at a light behind another car. All of a sudden, you’re struck from the rear by another vehicle. The force of the collision causes your car to move forward and crash into the car in front of you. Are you liable for rear-ending that other driver?

There’s no one definitive answer to this question. Generally speaking, you’ll be liable for a collision if you rear-end another driver. This can be true, even if you were forced into the vehicle in front of you. Why? You have to leave a safe space between you and other vehicles at all times, even when you’re stopped.

However, the details of your case will ultimately determine fault. For example, you may not be responsible if the driver who rear-ended you was driving at a high rate of speed. The force from a high-speed collision could potentially push your car a great distance. As a result, the fact that you left a full car length between you and the car in front of you might not matter.

Comparative Fault in Los Angeles Rear-End Car Accidents

Accidents are rarely cut and dry. Many factors can contribute to a crash. In many cases, more than one person is at fault. It’s very possible that both the front and rear drivers in a rear-end accident share some of the blame.

In California, anyone who contributes to an accident can be liable for damages. Liability is split between anyone who shares the blame. The more you contribute to an accident, the more of the liability you’ll share.

Limited Recovery and Shared Fault

Can I still recover compensation if I share fault for a rear-end crash? Yes, as long as someone else is also to blame. However, there are two important things to know when you share fault for your own accident:

  1. Your damages will be reduced to the degree you share blame, and
  2. You will be liable for some of the damages suffered by others involved in the crash.

Example: You’rerear-ended by another driver at a Los Angeles intersection. You and the other driver both suffer $20,000 in damages. It’s determined that you are 25 percent responsible for the crash because you were texting and not paying attention to the light. As a result, the most you’ll be able to recover from the other driver is $15,000. ($20,000 reduced by 25 percent). You will also be liable for up to 25 percent, or $5,000, of the other driver’s damages.

Always speak with an attorney if you are partly responsible for a car accident. Others involved in the accident will try to shift as much of the blame to you as possible. At Citywide Law Group, we know how to handle your case and prevent these tactics from harming your financial recovery. Call our office today to learn more.

Involved in a Rear-End Collision? Call Citywide Law Group

Rear-end car accidents are quite common. Unfortunately, there’s rarely much of a warning that your car is about to be struck from behind. This doesn’t leave you with much (if any) time to protect yourself.

If you’ve been involved in a rear-end car crash, you may be entitled to compensation. This is true even if you are partly responsible for the accident. The experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyers and Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Citywide Law Group can help you fight for the money you need and deserve. Contact our Los Angeles law firm today to schedule a free consultation. You should know and understand your rights, so do not hesitate to call for help today.