Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of collisions in the United States, according to the National Law Review. You see these types of crashes at intersections, highways, and parking lots. This means that rear-end crashes certainly caused some of Virginia’s nearly 1,000 annual traffic deaths.
Like all other collisions, the circumstances surrounding each rear-end collision are unique. And also, like all other crash types, the causes of rear-end crashes vary and may not immediately appear. The absence of predictable and uniform causes for rear-end crashes presents a challenge for injury victims and their car accident lawyer.
To obtain compensation for your injuries and losses, you and your rear-end collision attorney must prove that another motorist is at fault and caused the wreck through negligent driving. However, just because another vehicle struck you from behind does not make this a foregone conclusion. You must present evidence that supports your claim.
The Varied Causes of Rear-End Collisions
You may witness a rear-end collision and immediately assume that the driver of the car that struck the other vehicle from behind is at fault. This assumption may be true sometimes, but responsibility in rear-end crashes is not always straightforward.
Several motorists or responsible parties may play a role in a rear-end crash. These potential parties include:
The Driver of the Striking Vehicle
The first at-fault party that most people consider in a rear-end crash is the driver of the vehicle that struck the other vehicle from behind. Inattentiveness, carelessness, and recklessness can all lead to a rear-end collision.
For example, this driver might:
- Follow the vehicle in front of them too closely to avoid a crash
- Let a cell phone or other device distract them and fail to notice stopped traffic
- Speed and not have the time and space necessary to stop their car safely
- Fail to anticipate the movement of traffic in front of them
- Have an obscured or defective windshield that makes it difficult for them to see
Drivers must follow the law and operate their vehicles safely. Those who commit these and other negligent acts and strike traffic in front of them could be deemed the primary cause of an accident and required to compensate the victims for their losses.
The Driver of the Vehicle that is Struck
The driver of the vehicle that is hit from the rear may also be at fault in a rear-end crash. While these drivers’ inattentiveness is not often the reason rear-end collisions happen, any negligent or reckless driving committed by these drivers may make a rear-end strike more likely.
Examples of such carelessness or recklessness include:
- Sudden braking when the driver is traveling at a high speed
- Brake-checking to scare a driver behind them
- Making unexpected turns without giving a proper signal
- Driving a vehicle with broken or defective tail lights or turn signals
- Making illegal maneuvers, such as turning where no turning is allowed or braking without any reason to do so
Drivers who commit careless acts may not give traffic behind them enough time to avoid a crash. Where these actions are committed in a manner showing a disregard for the safety of others, these drivers will be found to be the primary cause of their rear-end crashes.
Other Third Parties
Passengers in either vehicle may play a role in bringing about a rear-end crash. A passenger talking excessively or creating a distraction can draw the driver’s attention away from the road, making a crash more likely.
Additionally, the passenger may attempt to grab the steering wheel away from the driver, causing the driver to lose control of the car and crash into a vehicle in front of them.
In other cases, one driver crashes into a vehicle in front of them because another has rear-ended the first driver. In this sort of “chain reaction” crash, the first driver may have little control over rear-ending the driver in front of them. When this occurs, the third driver who caused the chain reaction is responsible for the resulting collisions.
Last, a governmental entity that did not maintain a roadway or place traffic signs and signals to safely control traffic flow may also be responsible for a rear-end collision. This situation may arise if a city fails to put in stop or yield signs at a busy intersection or does not repair broken traffic lights along a significant stretch of road.
How to Determine Fault After a Rear-End Collision?
Deciding between multiple potentially liable parties demands a thorough investigation. Witnesses’ observations can help investigators and your car accident lawyer understand how the crash occurred. In some cases, the statements of one or two witnesses may be all that is necessary for your rear-end collision attorney to establish liability.
Your car accident lawyer may also want to obtain cell phone records from the other drivers and data from each vehicle’s data recorder. This objective evidence can show whether one driver was using their cell phone at the time of the crash or if they took any actions to avoid a collision.
An absence of avoidance maneuvers could suggest to your car accident lawyer that the striking driver was not paying attention to the traffic in front of them.
Lastly, a car accident report can provide critical information about a rear-end collision’s circumstances.
Never Investigate Your Accident Yourself
Gathering the evidence to show liability following a rear-end collision is time-consuming and complicated. This observation is especially true if a witness or entity possessing evidence wants to avoid cooperating with your efforts.
Additionally, certain evidence can be lost, and witnesses’ memories can fade if you do not take the appropriate steps to preserve this information.
For these reasons, contacting a Virginia personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after being rear-ended is in your best legal interest. A skilled car accident attorney can increase your chances of obtaining a positive outcome in your case and receiving appropriate compensation for your losses.