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Fault in Rear-End Accidents: Who’s Responsible?

A rear-end accident is typically considered to be an open-and-shut case. That’s because it’s generally easy to pinpoint which driver was at fault and who should be held responsible for damages. The driver who hits the car in front of him is usually considered the negligent party for a variety of reasons, such as driver inattention, distraction from a cell phone or radio, or he or she may have misjudged the distance between his or her vehicle and the bumper of the car ahead. This is the storyline for almost all rear-end collisions and the driver of the car that is rear-ended makes his or her claim with a fair amount of confidence that the other party will be considered the most responsible for the crash.

But some rear-end collisions have more to the story and the related personal injury assessments are not necessarily as easy to determine. Each driver is responsible for himself, his passengers and others on the road. Simply put: Every driver has a duty to safely operate his or her vehicle at all times. In your own car, you can’t necessarily control what every other driver around you may or may not do, but you can control your actions and you have a responsibility to drive safely.

How Do You Determine Fault?

Part of the responsibility to drive safely is the knowledge that drivers should always follow the car ahead of them at a safe distance. Tailgating, or riding a car’s bumper, creates an unsafe degree of space between two cars, and if the lead car has to stop suddenly, the second car may be unable to stop as quickly without hitting the leading car because the stopping distance is so short.

However, there are some cases where the driver of the lead car can be considered negligent as well. Below is a list of potential factors that could complicate determining who is at fault in a rear-end collision:

  • The leading driver stops abruptly to make a turn.
  • The leading driver is stopped to turn but doesn’t execute the turn.
  • The car’s brake lights are malfunctioning or broken, and the second vehicle does not realize that the driver ahead has applied the brakes.
  • The leading driver suddenly backs up.
  • The car malfunctions—flat tire, change in tire pressure, etc.—and the driver fails to pull over to the side of the road or turn on his or her hazard flashers.

In any of these cases, the driver of the lead car could be considered negligent for failing to take proper care and operate his or her vehicle safely. And depending on the circumstance surrounding the collision, the driver of the rear-ending car may also be at fault.

Colorado has a modified comparative fault rule in which a victim of an accident can pursue compensation for a personal injury caused by someone else’s negligence, as long as the victim was not more than 50 percent at fault for the accident.

For more information on rear-end accidents and responsibility, contact the Denver personal injury attorneys at Levine Law firm today

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