If you rear end someone, is it always your fault? When does liability for the accident call on the front driver, as opposed to the rear driver?
Contrary to what many folks assume, establishing rear end collision fault is not always so clear cut. While in many cases fault does fall on rear driver, sometimes the question of who is at fault for the accident is much more complex. Below, we discuss what factors come into play when determining fault in rear end crashes.
At Fielding Law Group, we can investigate your case and help you obtain compensation for your injuries. To learn more about our services, contact us today.
Drivers Must Always Maintain a Safe Distance Between Cars
According to Washington State law and the rules of the road, drivers must always maintain a safe distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. In fact, police officers often issue tickets to drivers for tailgating the car in front. Tailgating, or following too close, disrupts the safe flow of traffic and can lead to a car accident.
Because of the rule described above, many people automatically assume that rear end collision fault obviously falls on the driver who was in the rear. But what if the rear driver did maintain a safe distance with the car in front? How close is too close?
What Constitutes a Safe Distance?
Generally speaking, in Washington drivers must maintain a distance of two to three seconds behind the car in front when traveling at 30 mph. For speeds above that, you should maintain at least four seconds behind. However, there are scenarios when more than four seconds between cars is needed. Because the goal of maintaining a safe distance is to avoid hitting the car in front, you must read the signs of the road at all times. For instance, you should take the following into account when determining how much space to leave between you and the car in front of you:
- Road conditions and environment: Are you on a highway or residential road? Is there heavy road construction going on around you? Are you on a dirt road or a paved road?
- Weather conditions and time of day: Bad weather, such as rain, snow or ice, can make the road slippery and harder to stop. Fog or mist can impact your visibility on the car in front. In addition, people typically drive different during the different times of day. All must be taken into account.
- Heavy traffic: Heavy traffic usually results in drivers closing the distance behind the car in front. This is most often because nobody wants another car to get in front of them. In reality, these types of situations actually require more distance instead of less.
When Rear End Collision Fault Falls on the Front Driver
So again, if you rear end someone, is it always your fault? Not necessarily. The driver in front could be liable for the accident if they were being negligent. These type of situations occur when the driver in front did something that made it impossible for the rear driver to stop in time. Here are some examples of when rear end collision fault could fall on on the front driver:
- The front vehicle’s rear lights are out, making it impossible for the car behind to know when it slows down
- The driver in the car in front suddenly begins to back up and hits the car behind
- A car breaks down in the middle of the road and the driver fails to turn on their hazard lights or move to the side of the road
Injuries Caused by Rear End Collisions
Though typically simple in nature, rear end collisions can lead to serious injury. Types of injuries that can occur from rear end collisions include:
- Head trauma
- Broken bones
- Back and spine pain
If you were injured in a rear end accident and wondering who is legally at fault for your injuries, it’s best to enlist the help of an experienced Seattle WA car accident lawyer.
Learn More About Determining Fault in Car Accidents
At Fielding Law Group, we can help you accurately determine rear end collision fault. Our seasoned legal team will give your case the attention it deserves. Contact us today for a consultation.