I Rear Ended Someone Who Stopped Suddenly. Am I at Fault?

rear end collision accident

Rear-end collisions are the most common motor vehicle accidents, accounting for almost one-third of all collisions in the US. They typically happen at stoplights and stop signs, during rush hour traffic, and during weather conditions that make the roads more hazardous. In addition, Rear-end collisions run the gamut in severity, ranging from no damage at all to catastrophic loss, including death.

Even though the US experiences over two million rear-ender collisions a year, determining who is at fault for this type of car accident is not cut and dry. However, we often look to the rear-end collision doctrine to provide guidance on who’s at fault.

The Rear-End Collision Doctrine

Many jurisdictions, including Missouri and Illinois, follow some form of the rear-end collision doctrine. This doctrine creates a legal presumption that a driver who rear-ends a vehicle in front of them is at fault for the accident.

A Rebuttable Presumption

The rear-end collision doctrine is not absolute. Rather, it is a rebuttable presumption that can be contested with other evidence. Here are some examples:

  • Multi-vehicle accident. If the only reason you hit the car in front of you was that you were just rear-ended yourself, you might be cleared of some or all of the blame.
  • Malfunctioning brake lights/tail lights. Brake lights and taillights are not just for show. They are safety features specifically designed to alert other drivers that a vehicle is slowing down or stopping. Taillights are especially important at night to alert others of the presence of another vehicle.
  • Improper lane change or usage. A rear-end crash can happen when one driver cuts off another in traffic or pulls out from a side street and hits the brakes. 
  • Backing up. Sometimes drivers will put their vehicle into reverse without checking for the presence of another vehicle.

In most cases, however, the driver who rear-ends another is at fault. Common causes of rear-end collisions include:

  • Following too closely/tailgating. Frustrating as it is to get stuck behind a slow driver, expressing that frustration by tailgating is extremely dangerous.
  • Distracted driving. Whether it’s a phone, other passengers, or anything else, driving while distracted is a leading cause of auto accidents.
  • Speeding. The faster a vehicle is moving, the longer it takes to come to a complete stop.
  • Hazardous conditions. The dangers of driving on ice, snow, and water are well known, and all drivers must maintain a safe driving speed and distance, regardless of the weather. The weather will not be held at fault if you slide, skid, or hydroplane into another car. You will.

Finally, remember that causing a rear-end collision can get very expensive, very quickly.

  • If your car is damaged and you carry full coverage, you’ll still have to pay a deductible to get the car fixed or totaled out. However, if you carry liability-only coverage or are uninsured, the cost of repairs will come entirely out of your pocket.  
  • You may have to pay medical bills for any injuries you, your passengers, and the occupants of the vehicle you hit may sustain.
  • If you get ticketed, you face possible fines, court costs, and legal fees.
  • Your insurance premiums will almost certainly rise.
  • Your auto policy may be canceled.

Put your phone away, slow down, and keep your eyes on the road. The best accident is the one that never happens at all. 

If you have been involved in a rear-end collision that was not your fault, the car accident attorneys at Brown & Crouppen Law Firm may be able to help. Contact us for a free consultation.

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