Rear-end collisions are among the most common forms of car accidents.  A rear-end collision occurs when one vehicle hits the rear of the car in front of it. Typically, there is little or no warning to the driver of the vehicle in front. When a rear-end accident occurs, most people always assume that the driver behind is at fault. Although this presumption exists, it is not always the case under California law. At times, the driver in front may also be to blame for the accident.  If you suffer injuries in a rear-end collision, the Orange County Personal Injury Attorney team can help you seek compensation for damages suffered. 

Establishing Fault in a Rear-end Collision

Although the lead driver may be at fault in a rear-end collision, the rear driver is at fault most of the time. The crash may also occur due to the responsibility of another driver or a party other than the lead driver or the rear driver.  It is essential to determine the liable or the responsible party in an accident. 

Establishing liability helps to determine who will be responsible for meeting the other driver's damages.  Establishing liability entails determining whether any of the drivers acted negligently. If any of the drivers acted negligently, it is crucial to determine the percentage or degree of negligence.  

A driver may be negligent if he/she fails to exercise his/her due duty of care while driving. If a driver violates the traffic rules while operating a vehicle, the law may interpret it as negligence. Some indications of negligence include driving while texting or while talking on the phone.  A driver may engage in distracted driving by operating a vehicle with headphones. Distracted driving is a violation of the California VC 27400. Other forms of negligence include tailgating and speeding.  

You may be able to recover compensation for your injuries by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver.  You may get compensation for both compensatory and non-compensatory damages after an accident. 

It is important to note that fault in a rear-end collision is not essential. The lead driver, other vehicles pedestrians, and even road conditions may be to blame for a rear-end collision.  For you to be able to recover damages in a rear-end accident, you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was negligent. 

There are several elements of negligence that you have to prove in a personal injury lawsuit. First, you have to prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care. In California, drivers owe a duty of care to other road users, including other drivers and pedestrians. Therefore, you will not have a hard time proving the driver at fault owed you a duty of care.  

It should also be evident that the driver at fault breached the duty of care by acting negligently. The negligence of the defendant should be a substantial factor in causing your injuries. The law requires drivers to use reasonable care while driving. The driver also has to look out for obstacles, pedestrians, and other vehicles while driving. A driver has a duty of controlling the speed and the movement of a car. Failure of a driver to exercise care, as outlined above, is negligence.  

Lead Driver's Fault 

The lead driver may be at fault in a rear-end collision, depending on the circumstances of the accident.  The lead driver may be liable if he/she fails to use reasonable care while operating a vehicle. The lead driver may act negligently by pulling out in front of another car without proper warning. 

The lead driver may also be to blame if he/she brakes suddenly causing the vehicle behind to bump into his/her car. Engaging in drunk driving or intentionally trying to get hit by the car behind may make the lead driver liable. 

The lead driver may also be to blame if he/she recklessly reverses into a car. It is against the law to engage in road rage, and this may make the lead driver liable. The lead driver should ensure that his/her vehicle's brake lights are functional. If the lead driver operates a vehicle with broken brake lights, he/she may be to blame for the rear-end collision. 

Sudden Braking

If the driver in front brakes suddenly and a rear-end collision occurs, it may be hard to establish fault. Most collisions occur when the driver in front brakes suddenly and the driver behind hits the vehicle ahead. In most cases, the driver behind will be quick to blame the lead driver for braking suddenly.  However, even with the sudden braking by the driver in front, the rear driver may be at fault for the accident. 

According to California vehicle laws, the rear driver should leave ample space for the vehicle in front to be able to stop if there is a need.  The California VC 21703 makes it illegal for a driver of a motor vehicle to follow another car too closely than is reasonably appropriate or prudent. The rear driver should have due regard for the traffic, the speed of the vehicle ahead, and the condition of the roadway. 

The law does not define a specific safe distance that the driver behind should leave. The applicable safe distance will depend on various factors. The rear driver will have to adjust the distance between his/her vehicle and the vehicle ahead, depending on the timing.  It is advisable to leave a wider distance while engaging in nighttime driving. 

The rear driver should also leave a wider gap from the lead vehicle while driving in wet road conditions and loose gravel. While operating a heavier vehicle weight, it is appropriate to leave ample space. The rear driver should adjust the space between his /her vehicle and the lead vehicle based on other aspects like soft brakes and stop-and-go traffic.  

The rear end driver may be at fault for engaging in distracted driving. While engaging in distracted driving, the rear driver may not be able to notice when the lead driver brakes suddenly. The leading cause of distracted driving is the use of mobile phones while driving.  Anything that takes the driver's attention from the road may lead to distracted driving. 

A driver may engage in distracted driving if he/she tries to change the video or study maps while operating the vehicle. If a driver puts on make-up or shaves while operating a vehicle, it is easy to cause an accident. A driver may easily cause an accident if he/she eats, reads the newspaper, watches a video, adjusts the steering wheel or the seat, or lights a cigarette while operating a vehicle. 

The rear driver may be to blame for failing to keep a safe distance, engaging in distracted driving, or speeding. However, the driver in front is at fault if he/she was driving recklessly and caused the accident or partially contributed to the occurrence of the accident.  

The lead driver may be guilty of negligence if he/she intentionally brakes to get hit by the vehicle behind to commit insurance fraud.  The lead driver may also step on the brakes abruptly while engaging in road rage. If the lead driver's vehicle has broken brake lights, the vehicle behind may not know that the lead driver is braking. This may lead to rear-end collisions due to negligence of the lead driver.  

Pulling Out in Front of Another Vehicle

It can be complicated to determine the party at fault when a driver pulls out in front of another vehicle leading to a rear-end collision.  Both the lead driver who pulls out in front of traffic and the rear driver who fails to brake at a stop in time may be liable. Therefore, both the lead and the rear drivers may be to blame for the accident. 

Whether to blame the lead or the rear driver when a vehicle pulls out in front of other vehicles will depend on various factors. The factors include road conditions, vehicle speed, lane markings, and other factors.  While establishing fault, emphasis may be on whether the lead driver failed to signal while making  turns or changing lanes as outlined by California VC 22108.

The rear driver may be liable even if another vehicle pulls out in front of him/her if it is evident that he/she was speeding or engaging in distracted driving.  The lead driver may be to blame for the accident if he/she pulls into moving traffic across multiple lanes, especially if the driver fails to signal correctly.  The lead driver may also be liable if he/she crosses the solid yellow line and is rear-ended by the vehicle behind.  

Failure to Yield Right-of-way while Making Turns 

Rear-end collisions mainly occur when a driver turns in front of oncoming traffic or makes illegal u-turns without yielding the right-of-way to oncoming traffic. According to the right-of-way laws in California, a driver must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction. The driver should only make a turn when it is reasonably safe.  

When a driver is attempting to make a left turn, he/she must ensure that the oncoming vehicles are far enough and will not pose a danger. A driver must always ensure that the road is safe before making a u-turn.  If the lead driver fails to follow the law when making a left turn or a u-turn and a rear-end collision occurs, the lead driver will be liable for the accident. 

The Occurrence of Multiple Rear-end Collisions 

A rear-end collision is not limited to two-vehicles. A crash may involve multiple vehicles. For instance, when the rear car hits the lead vehicle, the lead vehicle may, in turn, hit the vehicle in front resulting in a chain reaction.  In the case of a collision involving multiple vehicles, the cars that initially got into the crash may be to blame for the accident. However, it is possible to have several liable drivers. 

In some instances, the drivers involved in a rear-end collision may not be to blame for the accident. For instance, a collision may occur due to the reckless behavior of another driver other than the drivers involved in the accident. Vehicle brake manufacturers may also be to blame if a rear-end collision occurs due to faulty brakes. 

A rear-end collision may occur due to poor road conditions. In this case, the entity responsible for maintaining the road, mainly the government may be liable for the damages. It is common for cyclists and pedestrians to confuse drivers leading to rear-end collisions. If a crash occurs due to an off-leash dog running out on the street, the dog’s owner may be liable for the damages. 

In a rear-end collision, the fault is not always apparent, especially if the crash involves multiple parties.  If a crash involves several parties, the parties may have different versions outlining the cause of the accident.  The jury will have to decide on the negligent and liable party.  After suffering injuries in a collision, it is essential to have an attorney on your side. An attorney can investigate the accident and determine the liable parties.  

Partial Fault in a Rear-end collision

If you are partly to blame for a rear-end collision, you may be wondering whether to file a lawsuit.  California is a comparative fault state. Therefore, even if you are partly to blame for an accident, you may still be able to recover some damages. The comparative fault law entails dividing fault between various parties involved.  Based on the level of fault of the other parties involved in the collision, you may be able to recover some damages even if you are partly to blame for the accident.  

For instance, if you get into a rear-end collision with another driver and the judge finds you 30% at fault for the accident while the other driver is 70% at fault, you could recover 70% of the damages from the liable driver. This is according to California's comparative fault law.

When the Driver at Fault in Uninsured

At times, you may get into a rear-end collision with a driver who is not insured. In some other instances, the liable driver's insurance may not be adequate to meet the damages you suffer in the collision. In this case, you would have to rely on your uninsured or underinsured insurance cover to meet the damages. 

In California, Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)  are optional. If you have this insurance coverage, it will cater for the damages when the other driver is at fault but does not have auto insurance. The UMC/UIM will also come in handy if the other driver's insurance coverage does not offer ample cover to cater for the injured victim's damages.  California law requires insurance companies to offer uninsured and underinsured coverage. However, the driver doesn't need to have this coverage.  

In California, every driver must have at least the minimum insurance coverage. However, even when a driver has insurance coverage, the liability limits may not be adequate to cater for the damages when a severe rear-end collision occurs.  If a victim suffers injuries in a crash, he/she may be able to make a claim under his/her uninsured or underinsured coverage for the damages above the liable driver's insurance coverage.  

If a victim does not have uninsured or underinsured coverage, it may be hard for the victim to get the rightful compensation. The victim may choose to file a lawsuit against the liable driver. However, if a driver does not have auto insurance,it is likely he/she does not have the financial capability to meet the victim's damages after a rear-end collision.  

Importance of an Attorney

You may think that you can handle a car accident claim or let your insurance company handle the claim on your behalf.  However, you may not be able to face the insurance adjusters who mainly aim at reducing your compensation.  It is essential to understand the aim of the insurance company is to save money and make profits. Therefore, the insurance company may not have your interests at heart.

It is common for insurance companies to deny victims' claims or to keep delaying the compensation until the victims accept their low offer.  If the insurance company frustrates you for so long, you may finally give in and accept any compensation they offer you. It is essential to talk to a personal injury attorney instead of placing yourself in the hands of insurance adjusters.  

An experienced personal injury attorney understands all the tricks that insurance companies adopt. An attorney will uncover all the evidence surrounding your case so that you can get the compensation you deserve after an accident.  

Common Injuries in Rear-end Collisions

When rear-end collisions occur, they have the potential to cause serious injuries, and some of the injuries may lead to long-term complications. One of the most common injuries that result from a rear-end collision is whiplash.  Whiplash refers to a variety of neck and spinal injuries. After suffering a whiplash, you may experience long-term pain and discomfort. You may have to take considerable time away from work. 

After suffering whiplash injuries, the symptoms may not develop soon after the accident. It may be hard to prove that your injuries occurred due to the involvement in the rear-end collision. It is essential to seek medical attention immediately after the accident, even if you do not consider your injuries severe. Your doctor will be able to diagnose any injuries and treat you on time.  The doctor will also provide you with an official record outlining your injuries. This record would come in handy while seeking compensation for your injuries.  

More severe injuries in a rear-end collision may lead to concussions, brain injuries, vertebra injuries, and spinal cord injuries. A victim may experience several symptoms, including tingling, numbness, pain radiating down the body, and headaches.  The treatment methods may range from pain management to physical therapy. In severe cases, the victim may have to undergo surgery after a rear-end collision.

Damages Available After a Rear-end Collision

After getting involved in a collision, you may seek compensation for all the costs and the losses associated with the accident.  You may seek compensation for both economic and non-economic compensatory damages.

After suffering injuries in a rear-end collision, you will incur costs in seeking medical treatment for your injuries. The amount of money you spend on seeking treatment will depend on various factors, including the extent of your injuries. You should consider the medical costs incurred and the cost you may incur in the future on medication or physiotherapy costs.  The doctor's record will come in handy to prove that a victim incurred the said medical costs in seeking treatment for the injuries sustained during the accident.  

You will also spend money on repairing your vehicle after an accident. To determine the compensation due, you may have a mechanic evaluate your vehicle.

You may have to spend some time away from work after suffering injuries in a rear-end collision. You are entitled to compensation for the lost income, commonly known as lost wages. This is the income that you would have earned if you would not have spent time away from work due to the injuries.  In computing lost wages, the judge considers your regular rate of pay and the time you spent away from work. 

You may also lose the ability to earn money in the future. For instance, you may never be able to resume work after suffering from permanent disability. Even if you resume work, you may not be as effective as you used to be before suffering injuries in the accident.

You may seek compensation for non-economic injuries, including pain and suffering. Suffering whiplash and other injuries in a rear-end collision may come with excruciating pain and suffering. For this pain and suffering, you can seek compensation under California's personal injury laws. 

You may seek compensation for loss of enjoyment in life.  You may not take part in social events or sporting events after suffering injuries. Therefore, you may not enjoy life the way you enjoyed before the accident.

Your spouse or registered domestic partner may seek compensation for loss of consortium or companionship. You may no longer provide physical intimacy to your spouse as effectively as you did before the accident. 

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

If you or a loved one suffers injuries in a rear-end collision, you will need an attorney to fight on your behalf. We at Orange County Personal Injury Attorney can help you seek compensation. Contact us at 714-876-1959 and speak to one of our attorneys.