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Does Liability Always Fall on the Rear Car in a Rear End Accident?

June 8, 2022Car Accidents

Liability for a rear-end accident usually falls on the rear car, but not always. It will depend on which driver’s negligence led to the collision. 

When the Leading Car Is at Fault in a Rear-End Collision

Here are some examples of when actions taken by a leading driver may make them liable if a car rear-ends them: 

  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Making an illegal turn 
  • Making an abrupt lane change without warning so it is impossible for the rear driver to avoid a collision
  • Driving with tail lights that are out or broken
  • Backing up or out of a parking spot without looking
  • Driving too slow for the current traffic conditions
  • Braking suddenly for no valid reason
  • Failing to pull over to the side of the road for a mechanical problem with their vehicle
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

A third party can also be liable in some accidents. For instance, if a preventable road condition or defective vehicle/part contributed to the rear-end accident. In those cases, liability may entirely or partially fall on the government agency responsible for maintaining the roads or the defective vehicle or part manufacturer. 

How is Liability Decided in a Rear End Accident?

Since Missouri is a fault-based state when it comes to car accidents, liability is decided by determining which driver was negligent or failed in their duty of care. Drivers have a duty of care to drive their vehicles safely and follow traffic laws. When they violate that duty (e.g., speeding, texting, abrupt lane changes), they are considered negligent. However, deciding fault can be challenging. Insurance companies often rely on driver statements, the police report, witness statements, the location of the damage to the vehicles, photos of the scene, and any available surveillance or video footage of the accident. 

Each party involved in a collision will be assigned a percentage of fault based on their degree of negligence in causing the accident. Under Missouri’s pure comparative negligence law, each driver’s compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if the lead vehicle is awarded $100,000, but the driver is found 60% at fault, they will only receive 40% of their award, or $40,000. 

Disputing Fault After a Rear End Accident

If you do not agree with the insurance company’s decision on fault, immediately notify them in writing that you disagree with their findings. Your letter may lead to further investigation by the insurer and possibly a revised decision. On the other hand, if the insurer upholds their decision, it is time to hire a car accident attorney if you have not already. Your attorney will determine whether you have legal options and, if so, will craft a demand letter to send to the insurer stating your side of the story, evidence to support your claim, and the amount of compensation you are demanding to resolve the claim.

When you have legal representation, insurance companies tend to take claimants much more seriously since there is a valid risk of a lawsuit. If the insurer refuses to negotiate, your last option is to file a lawsuit. Keep in mind, that your attorney will likely only agree to do so if they believe you will win. 

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