If I Rear-Ended Someone, Will I Automatically Be Found At Fault?
Posted on Dec 28, 2018 in Personal Injury
Unless the leading car is backing up at the time, the trailing vehicle in a rear-end accident is the one that collides with the car in front, not the other way around. For this reason, most people presume that if they are the driver of a trailing car in a rear-end accident, they are automatically at fault and will be held responsible for any damage or injury that results. For the same reason, trailing drivers who are hurt when they hit the car in front of them may believe that they cannot seek compensation from other drivers for their injuries.
But there is no Louisiana law or hard rule that says this. Indeed, most rear-end collisions are at least partially the fault of the trailing driver. But if you’ve been hurt in an accident where you rear-ended someone, don’t necessarily assume that you are out of luck. There are plenty of circumstances under which the other driver may be held responsible – in whole or in part – for the accident, potentially allowing you to recover compensation.
Rear-end collisions are the most frequent kind of car accidents in the United States according to the National Safety Council, with more than 2.5 million rear-end collisions each year. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand the reasons for a lot of these crashes, which are more often than not based on the actions of the trailing driver, including:
- Distracted driving
- Drunk or impaired driving
Unsurprisingly, tailgating is the biggest culprit. Louisiana law makes tailgating a moving violation, stating that “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.” (LA Rev Stat § 32:81).
The reason for laws against tailgating is a matter of simple physics: if you don’t leave enough room between yourself and the car in front of you while you are moving, your momentum will slam you into the car in front of you – no matter how hard you slam on the brakes.
Sometimes, though, even keeping an appropriate distance between cars won’t prevent a rear-end collision. You can still wind up rear-ending someone because of acts or circumstances of the driver in front of you, such as:
- Broken or non-functioning brake lights
- The driver suddenly reversing
- The driver pulling into your lane or merging suddenly and/or at an insufficient speed
If any amount of the fault in your rear-end accident can be placed on the shoulders of the lead driver, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries. In car accident and other personal injury lawsuits, Louisiana has adopted the doctrine of “comparative fault,” also known as “proportionate responsibility.” Under this rule, which nine other states also apply, a plaintiff who is found to be partially at fault for a car accident can still recover compensation, but damages between the drivers are allocated based on their proportionate shares of responsibility.
Accordingly, you should always meet with an experienced auto accident attorney if you’ve been hurt in a rear-end accident, regardless of what you think about your own blame for the crash.
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