Rear-end crashes are one of the most common types of car crashes. Rear-end crashes can result in serious injuries and are the third most common cause of traffic fatalities. Rear-end collisions are usually one of the most straightforward types of accidents in terms of determining fault. However, not every case is the same.

Who Is Usually At Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

Usually, a driver who hits a car in front of them is liable for a rear-end accident. However, there are some circumstances where another driver or a third party may share some of the fault.

Who Decides Which Driver Is At Fault?

Usually, the insurance companies for both drivers will determine fault. However, if the parties disagree and file a lawsuit, the court decides.

How Is Fault Determined?

For a person to be liable for injuries and damages to another party in a car crash, the driver of the vehicle must have engaged in negligent actions or inactions that contributed to the cause of the crash. Examples of negligent driving include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to control the vehicle
  • Following too closely
  • Not stopping for road hazards
  • Not using turn signals
  • Failure to yield the right of way

In addition to proving that the other driver behaved negligently, you must prove that the other driver’s negligence resulted in your injuries and property damage.

Why Does Fault Matter If Utah Insurance Is No-Fault?

The no-fault insurance system in Utah helps reduce court cases for minor damages by requiring insurance companies to cover their policyholders’ injuries up to $3,000, regardless of who caused the accident. However, if your damages exceed $3,000, or you have a bone fracture, permanent scarring or a permanent impairment caused by the accident, you can seek compensation from the at-fault party or insurance company.

How Can You Prove Someone Else Is At Fault?

The more evidence you have, the better chance you have of proving someone else is at fault for an accident. The first thing you should do after attending to anyone with injuries in an accident is to call 911. This should result in an ambulance coming out to assist injured people and the police coming out to investigate the accident and file a report. The police report is an important piece of evidence for your claim. If the police do not come out, call the police station to make a report.

Take photos of the accident scene, the drivers, any passengers and both vehicles. Pay particular attention to any road conditions that may have contributed, skid marks and debris on the road and the impact points on the vehicles.

Seek medical treatment, even if you do not think you have injuries. Many typical injuries from rear-end accidents are not immediately apparent. Medical records are an important part of the evidence for your claim. Get the other driver’s contact and insurance information and write down the make, model, year and license plate number of the other car. If there are any witnesses, get their contact information.

What If the Driver in Front Slammed on the Brakes Suddenly?

Drivers exercising reasonable care must leave enough distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front to execute an emergency stop if the vehicle in front stops suddenly. Most of the time, the driver who hits the car in front will still be at fault when the front car stops suddenly.

However, every accident is unique and some circumstances may place a portion of the fault on the driver of the front car or a third party. A car accident attorney may be able to determine if someone other than the rear driver contributed to the cause of the accident.

When Might the Front Car Be At-Fault for a Rear-End Accident?

If the driver of the front car was driving recklessly, such as weaving all over the road because of intoxication, was intentionally trying to get hit, changed lanes improperly or was driving with broken brake or tail lights, the owner of the front car could be at-fault in a rear-end accident.

Who Else Could Be at Fault?

In some circumstances, a third party could be at fault. For example, if the rear car was following a safe distance behind but was unable to stop in time because of faulty brakes or a hazardous road condition caused by poor road maintenance or a spill on the roadway, the person or organization responsible could share fault in the accident.

In some cases, a third party could be at fault for negligently causing the front car to have to stop suddenly, such as a dog owner who allows an unleashed pet to run into the roadway, or a cyclist or pedestrian who negligently crosses too close to oncoming traffic.

Who Is At Fault When There are More Than Two Cars?

Chain reaction rear-end accidents can be complicated. If the front car stops and the car behind hits that car and then gets hit by the car behind the second car, usually the driver of the second car is at fault for the damage to the lead car and the driver of the third car is responsible for the rear-end damage to the second car.

However, if the driver of the third car causes the second car to hit the first car a second time, the driver of the third car could also be partly responsible for the damage to the lead car and the front of the second car. It gets even more complex for each additional car involved in the accident. If both the lead car and the second car stop without colliding, but a car behind the second car causes a collision that pushes the second car into the first car, one or more drivers in the back of the chain may be at fault for the damage to the lead cars and any injuries that result.

What If You Are Partly At Fault for an Accident?

Utah has a modified comparative negligence law with a 50% at-fault bar. As a result, if you are 50% or more at fault for an accident, you can not collect damages from the other party. However, if you are 49% or less at fault, you can collect damages up to the percentage of fault the other party has.

For example, if you do not notice a car has stopped because the brake lights do not work and you rear-end that car and the insurance company or court decides you are 70% at fault and the other party is 30% at fault, you can not recover any of your damages from the other party, but the other party can recover 70% of that party’s damages from you if they exceed the no-fault threshold.

What Kind of Damages Do Rear-End Accidents Cause?

Rear-end accidents may cause injuries and property damage. The at-fault party may be responsible for economic damages, such as medical expenses, property damage and lost wages and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. If someone dies in the accident, the family of the person who died may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against an at-fault party.

Do You Need an Attorney for a Rear-End Accident?

Rear-end accidents can cause serious injuries and substantial property damage. The experienced auto accident injury lawyers at Siegfried & Jensen are dedicated to protecting your legal rights and helping you recover compensation for your damages. Contact us at (801) 598-1218 to schedule a free consultation.