Who Pays for Rear-End Collisions?

April 26, 2023 | David Abels
Who Pays for Rear-End Collisions?

In rear-end car accidents, there is a presumption of fault. We usually blame the driver of the rear car unless they can show evidence to the contrary. The legal theory is that the rear car driver should have allowed adequate following distance to avoid hitting the car in front of them. Alternatively, they should have seen the car in front slow down and braked in time to avoid a crash. If you have been involved in a rear-end car accident, A skilled car accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal process.

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Rear-End Car Accidents Are Common but Serious

Rear-end crashes are among the most common types of accidents. Roughly one in every three collisions is a rear-end accident. Even if these accidents have a lower fatality rate than other types of crashes, they are still serious events. You can suffer life-changing injuries in a rear-end crash. The most common injury from a rear-end accident is whiplash, which can lead to a permanent loss of mobility and strength or other injuries that do not go away.

Causes of Rear-End Car Accident Injuries

Here are some of the common causes of rear-end accidents:

  • A speeding driver not seeing the car in front of them
  • Tailgating - not leaving enough following distance between the driver and the car in front
  • Distracted driving, causing a motorist to not see the car in front of them
  • Slow reactions that cause a driver to not stop in time

Rear-end crashes are something that should not happen. Accordingly, someone has to be to blame for the crash. It is very rare for there to be a rear-end car accident that is not someone’s fault. It will be the rear car driver’s legal responsibility in almost every case. A reasonable driver brakes in time and they do not hit the car in front of them.

Exceptions to the General Rule About Rear-End Car Accidents

Car Accident lawyer in Chicago, Illinois area

The rule about fault is not always ironclad. Instead, it is a presumption that you can overcome in certain limited circumstances. Still, you should not assume that you can overcome the presumption.

The front car driver should be liable for the accident when they:

  • Stopped short in front of you with no warning
  • Cut you off in traffic, cutting in front of you with no signal
  • Traveled unreasonably slowly in traffic, well below the speed limit

In addition, the front car driver can be at least partially responsible for the crash when their brake lights were not functioning properly. Each driver has an obligation to maintain their vehicle in proper and safe working condition, and they must make repairs when something is malfunctioning. If the front car driver did not have a working brake light, the rear car driver might even sue them for their injuries. 

The Insurance Companies May Blame You

Regardless of the position of your vehicle or the other driver’s actions, the insurance company might point the blame at you. Too many people assume that they do not have a valid claim if they face accusations of fault. However, insurers will do anything possible to avoid liability, which means they must shift responsibility away from the policyholder and onto the claimant. Fortunately, the right car accident lawyer can advise you regarding liability and prevent you from taking the insurance company’s word. 

Liability in Multi-Car Accidents

Liability for a rear-end crash can be trickier when more than two cars are involved in the accident. There are complicated rules for determining who is responsible in a multi-car pileup. If the accident happened because of the middle car driver rear-ending the vehicle in front of them, the driver of the second car will be obligated to pay the damages of both the other drivers involved in the crash (and their passengers).

Even if you were the front car driver and believe you have a very clear case, you can always count on an insurance company to try to muddy the water. They may try to find any way to blame you in whole or in part. Never underestimate the insurance company’s ability to do whatever it can to either avoid paying you entirely or reduce the amount of money that they need to pay you. 

Rear-End Car Accident When the Brakes Malfunction

There are other occasions (albeit rare) when neither driver is to blame for the accident. The rear driver may have applied the brakes, which did not work properly. The rear driver is responsible for properly maintaining their own car, but the manufacturer of the car and the brake part can be legally responsible when a part is defective.

You must prove that the brakes were defective in a product liability lawsuit. The manufacturer might blame the driver by saying they did not maintain their brakes.

How to Prove Your Car Accident Case?

Even in a clear-cut case, you still need evidence to prove your side of the story.

Car accident evidence can include:

  • Testimony from people who saw the accident
  • Pictures of the scene of the accident
  • Traffic camera footage (especially if the accident occurred at an intersection when there may have been an active camera)
  • The police officer’s observations in the accident report
  • Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert

You need a car accident attorney to collect and present solid evidence when you were the rear car driver and the front car driver caused the accident. You may not find a willing audience to listen unless you have a comprehensive case presented by an experienced car accident lawyer.

Lawyers usually hesitate to accept cases when the rear car driver approaches them for legal representation. A lawyer only receives legal fees if they get results in your case. If you do not receive compensation, your lawyer has essentially volunteered their time. An attorney does not like to accept cases they know going in are long shots.

However, you should get immediate legal help when you already have some indication that the normal rules of liability should not apply in your case. Then, an attorney knows they can further develop your case and put you in a position to receive financial compensation whenever possible. Everything depends on what you can share with your attorney during your initial consultation. They need to make their own decision about whether it is in their best interests to represent you. 

The Insurance Company Must Pay When Their Policyholder Is Responsible

Once someone has injured you in a rear-end car accident, their insurance company steps into their place. There is a legal agreement between the insurance company and their policyholder that the company steps in to defend them from a car accident lawsuit.

Thus, the insurance company ends up calling the shots once you have filed a claim or a lawsuit. They will be the ones negotiating the claim and providing the lawyer if your case goes to court. The insurance company will have an obligation to pay up to the policy maximum.

The first step is to determine liability in a rear-end car crash. In many cases, this determination is not that complicated. However, the insurance companies may not always agree about who was responsible. If they absolutely cannot get on the same page, they might submit the claim to an independent arbitrator, who will determine liability.

Negotiating a Settlement for Rear-End Car Accident Injuries

Once the liability determination happens, you will then begin the process of actually discussing compensation for your damages. The insurance company tries to take advantage of the perception that a rear-end car accident is not that serious to cut down your settlement check.

They know full well that whiplash injuries can cause serious, lifelong pain and suffering. They read the same statistics that show that up to half the people who suffer whiplash injuries are never the same again. Further, they have access to your medical files that show the full extent of your injuries.

Your rear-end settlement check can be larger than you think. Whiplash (the most common rear-end car accident injury) can cause serious complications, both in the short and long run. 

Get Medical Help Right After a Rear-End Car Crash

You may not realize that you have suffered an injury immediately after the rear-end car accident. Feeling fine after a car accident does not always mean you escaped the crash unscathed. You may not begin to feel whiplash symptoms for days or weeks.

After a rear-end car accident, always see a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you think that you are okay, it makes medical and legal sense to get a thorough examination. In a best-case scenario, you get a clean bill of health, and you need to do nothing more.

Rear-end car accident injuries can get much worse when you don’t treat them. For example, head and neck injuries from whiplash can not only cause you a considerable amount of immediate pain, but the injured body parts can degenerate over time. In a worst-case scenario, you have suffered a traumatic brain injury in addition to whiplash. Losing valuable treatment time decreases the chances that you can recover.

The longer that you go without medical treatment, the more likely the insurance company is to try to blame you for the severity of your injuries. They may claim that you failed to mitigate your own damages by delaying medical treatment. They may even argue that your injuries cannot be tied to the car accident. 

Contact a Lawyer Right After Your Car Accident

You should also contact a lawyer as soon as possible after the car accident. If you were driving the car that was rear-ended, the insurance company will have a good sense that they need to pay you something. They might begin their efforts right after the accident to try to cut the amount that they need to pay you. The insurance company may try to trick you or rush you into agreeing to a very low settlement. You may not even realize what they have done until it was too late.

Your rear-end car accident case can be worth much more than you think. If you have suffered a debilitating injury that can affect you for the rest of your life, the insurance company may owe you a good deal of money. A car accident lawyer can help get you the money you deserve for your injuries. You have very little chance of getting a full and fair car accident settlement without a lawyer. You will not even have any way of knowing what an appropriate settlement is.

How a Rear-End Car Accident Lawyer Helps Your Case?

Contact an attorney and leave the details to them.

Your attorney will:

  • Investigate the car accident to gather the details and the proof that you need to show liability
  • Review your medical records and your own personal situation to come up with an estimate for your damages
  • Compile and present your claim to the insurance company for their consideration
  • Communicate with the insurance company throughout the process
  • Review any settlement offers that you receive and give you legal advice about whether to accept or reject them

Always Call a Lawyer After a Car Accident

Gary Annes Attorney for Car Accident Cases near Chicago
 Gary Annes Car Accident Lawyer, in Chicago

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that a car accident is “too minor” for you to need an attorney. The insurance company wants you to think that way because they will save money. They may promise to be fair with you or act like your friend because they can get you to accept a pittance for your injuries. Only after hiring a lawyer will you know exactly how much your case is worth and that you can make the insurance company pay.
The sooner you seek an evaluation from personal injury law firm in Chicago, the sooner you can gain peace of mind by learning about your legal rights to compensation. Seek as free consultation today.

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Abels & Annes, P.C.

Address: 100 N LaSalle St #1710,
Chicago, IL 60602

Phone: (855) 529-2442
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David Abels


David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.

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