Determining Fault In a Rear-End Collision

Unfortunately, one of the most common types of car accidents you can experience in America is a rear-end collision. Regardless of which city you call home, rear-end wrecks happen daily and this includes Portland, OR. The city saw 2,099 rear-end collisions in 2020 alone. 

While this number isn’t exceptionally high, it does give you a good indication of your chances of being involved in one. Even though a large percentage of rear-end accidents only result in minor damage and injuries are often less severe, you’re still looking to assign blame to someone.

You may believe the driver who hits the rear of the lead vehicle is automatically responsible, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, the lead vehicle is partially or wholly to blame for the accident. To help you determine who’s actually at fault in your rear-end collision accident, this article is going to review some of the key criteria that go into establishing it. 

Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions

You’re probably already aware of the common causes of rear-end accidents since the most common causes are covered in driver’s education classes. Some auto insurance carriers also include the causes in their safe driving-related literature.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) monitors rear-end collisions across the U.S., including Oregon. It states the three common reasons a vehicle collides into the rear of another are:

  • Distracted driving
  • Tailgating (following too closely behind the lead vehicle)
  • Driving while fatigued or impaired

Other factors that can result in a rear-end wreck also include mechanical failure. The brakes may not be working properly, causing a vehicle to hit another car. Weather can also play a role in this type of vehicle accident. For example, fog or heavy rain can make it difficult to see if any cars are in front.

Who’s Responsible for a Rear-End Collision

Sometimes, determining blame in a rear-end collision is relatively easy. For example, the weather is great, there’s plenty of visibility, and your vehicle is rear-ended by a driver following too closely behind.

Even though Oregon follows comparative negligence guidelines, there’s no question of who’s to fully blame for the accident. If you’re not sure what comparative negligence is, the premise is fairly simple. 

The standard allows more than one individual to be assigned blame for an accident. This means the defendant may also be able to recover some of their damages, even if they’re partially responsible for the rear-end collision.

However, if your rear-end collision is caused by tailgating, distracted, tired, or intoxicated driving, your case almost always meets Oregon standards of proving negligence. In this instance, comparative negligence isn’t something you need to worry about.

When is the Trailing Driver Not Responsible For a Rear-End Collision

Imagining a scenario where the trailing driver isn’t responsible for a rear-end collision can be difficult. However, sometimes the collision is the fault of the lead car’s driver. This can be when comparative negligence comes into play. 

Remember, comparative negligence allows more than one individual to take the blame for an accident. So, when may the lead driver be at least partially at fault?

Brake Lights are Missing or Broken

Brake lights are an important safety feature on a vehicle and you can receive a traffic citation if yours are broken or missing. Your brake lights alert drivers behind you that you’re slowing down or coming to a complete stop.

Since it’s difficult to judge a vehicle’s changing rate of speed with a glance, brake lights give a visual warning. If you fail to repair your brake lights, comparative negligence may apply.

Suddenly Reversing or Stopping

Yes, your brake lights give some warning your vehicle is stopping or reversing. However, brake lights are only a warning to give trailing drivers time to slow down. If you suddenly slam on your brakes, rear drivers may not have time to stop.

This also applies if you throw your car into reverse without any warning. Not only is this hard on your transmission but it can also result in a rear-end collision.

While reversing when vehicles are behind you is often considered a form of negligence, it’s a little different when it comes to braking suddenly. You can argue if the trailing driver wasn’t following so closely the accident wouldn’t have occurred. However, the court can also find you’re partially responsible. Bringing in an accident reconstruction expert may be necessary to help prove your claim.

Multi-Vehicle Accidents

A multi-vehicle accident occurs when more than two cars are involved in an accident. Think of it as a chain reaction. 

One vehicle rear-ends another and it continues down the line, and this type of collision often happens on busy roads and freeways when there’s not a lot of space between vehicles. This means drivers don’t have a lot of time to react if a lead vehicle comes to a sudden stop. Sometimes, even slowing down can result in a multi-vehicle accident.

Determining liability in this type of rear-end crash is often a complex process. Authorities typically need to gather evidence that can include video footage. Witness statements can also be helpful. However, oftentimes, more than one driver is found to be responsible for the accident. When this happens, comparative negligence may benefit your injury and damage claim.

For example, you may be partially responsible for the accident, but under comparative negligence, you can still receive compensation for some of your expenses relating to the collision.

What to Do After Being Involved in a Rear-End Collision

Regardless of who’s to blame for a rear-end collision, it’s best to always file both an accident and a police report. The two reports are different and your insurance company is probably going to want copies of both.

You do have 72 hours to file an Oregon Traffic Accident and Insurance Report. The same applies to a police report. If you’re wondering if it’s legal to leave the scene of an accident, the answer is occasionally yes. 

However, if any injuries or a fatality occurs, then you’re legally required to remain on scene until the authorities arrive. You must also call the authorities if the vehicle or any other property damage exceeds $2,500. From there, your next step should be to contact an accident attorney specializing in rear-end collisions.

Protect Your Legal Rights After a Rear-End Collision

Figuring out who’s at fault in a rear-end crash can get tricky, especially when it comes to Oregon’s comparative negligence rule stirring the pot. 

To help you avoid shouldering more of the blame than you should, it’s a smart move to team up with a seasoned accident attorney—they can help make sure you’re treated fairly throughout the entire process.

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Author: James

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