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Rear-end Crashes – Is the Driver in Back Always Liable?

fault for rear-end crashMost people assume that the driver in back is always to blame for a rear-end crash. Although it is generally true that the rear-ending driver is at fault, liability is never a foregone conclusion. There are situations where the lead driver or someone else could be liable.

At Jay Trucks, we have a team of qualified lawyers ready to discuss your rear-end collision and determine who may be liable. Our experienced crash lawyers in Grand Rapids have been helping injury victims for decades. We have a history of proven results, and we have recovered more than $500 million for our clients.

Learn more in your FREE case review. (989) 244-0407

Is Liability for a Rear-End Crash Relevant in a No-Fault State?

Determining Liability for any crash is still relevant, even in a no-fault state. In Michigan, some drivers may only need to file a no-fault claim through their car insurance. No-fault benefits include medical costs, lost wages, attendant care and more.

However, victims who suffer severe injuries in a rear-end crash, may exceed their personal injury protection (PIP) coverage limits. If this happens, they may need to seek excess damages through a third-party lawsuit. To be eligible, injured victims must first meet Michigan’s injury threshold.

Why is the Back Driver Often at Fault for a Rear-End Crash?

When a rear-end crash happens, it is typically because the driver in back was engaging in unsafe driving behavior. For example, the rear driver may have been:

  • Distracted by a cellphone, vehicle technology, grooming, eating or something else
  • Following the lead vehicle too closely (tailgating) and not expecting the lead driver to stop
  • Traveling at high speed around other drivers who were driving at slower speeds
  • Driving while fatigued or impaired by alcohol, marijuana or other substances
  • Speeding and unable to stop in time
  • Aggressively driving too close to the lead vehicle and trying to cause a crash

Sometimes, it is nothing more than an unintentional driving error. For instance, an inexperienced driver may accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. Someone’s foot could also slide off the brake if it was wet outside and the soles of his or her shoes were slippery.

Is the Lead Driver Ever to Blame for a Rear-End Crash?

There are a few ways that the lead driver could be at least partially at fault for a rear-end crash. Some common scenarios where this could happen include:

  • Lead driver stopping suddenly – Fault for a rear-end crash could be shared, especially if the driver in back was following too closely.
  • Mechanical failure – Lead drivers who fail to maintain their vehicles could be at least partially liable if that failure – for instance, broken taillight or worn brakes – contributed to the crash.
  • Brake checking – Lead drivers may deliberately slam on their brakes to try to cause the driver in back to rear-end their vehicle.
  • Backing into another vehicle – If the lead vehicle backs into the vehicle behind him or her, the rear-end driver would not be liable.
  • Stopping because of a car problem – If the lead driver stops for a car problem without putting on hazard lights to warn others, he or she could share fault if a rear-end crash occurs.

Can Other Third-Parties Be at Fault for a Rear-End Crash?

Though much less common, third parties could be liable for a rear-end crash. For instance, if the rear driver’s brakes fail because of a defective auto part.

For instance, if the braking system had been properly maintained by the driver but the installed brakes were defective. If that defective part contributed to the crash, the manufacturer or repair shop could be held liable for the damages.

How is Fault Determined for a Rear-End Crash?

Like all traffic accidents, there will be an investigation into what caused it to happen. Investigators will look at not only the crash scene, but also vehicle damage, crash scene photos and other relevant evidence. Responding officers will get statements from all involved drivers, as well as from any credible witnesses at the scene.

As the crash victim, the burden of proof falls on you. If you are working with an attorney, he or she can seek to prove negligence on your behalf by establishing these four elements:

  • The driver owed you a duty of care – to prevent causing you harm
  • That same driver breached his or her duty of care through an act of negligence
  • That negligence led to a crash and your injuries
  • You sustained damages that, but for the crash, you would not have suffered

When Michigan’s Comparative Negligence Law May Apply

You may be eligible for a third-party lawsuit even if you partially caused the rear-end crash. Michigan’s comparative negligence law does not bar victims from recovering excess damages unless they are over 50 percent at fault.

What this means is that if you share fault for a crash, you may still have a claim. However, any compensation you are awarded will be reduced by your percentage of fault. So if you are awarded $100,000 but are deemed 20 percent liable, you would only receive $80,000 if your claim is successful.

Call Our Firm After a Rear-End Crash for Legal Help

Learn whether you may have legal options for filing a third-party lawsuit after a rear-end crash that left you injured.

At Jay Trucks, our lawyers are licensed, experienced and ready to help. Take advantage of our initial FREE consultation. It is a great opportunity to get answers to your questions and learn about your legal options at no risk to you.

If we represent you, there is nothing to pay up front or while we manage your case. We only get paid if we win compensation for you through a settlement or jury-awarded verdict.

Proven Results. Call (989) 244-0407 today.