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Is the Driver Behind Always at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

A rear-end collision occurs when one vehicle hits another from behind, typically because there was insufficient stopping distance between them. If the driver ahead slows or stops and the rear driver cannot stop in time, the likelihood is that the driver behind will be presumed to be at fault for following too closely. However, this is not always the case. It is possible that the other driver shares in the responsibility for causing the crash.

Fault for a car accident is determined based on negligence, which is the failure to exercise the reasonable care that a prudent person would observe under similar circumstances. But New York law applies a rule of pure comparative negligence. Simply put, if the fault for an accident is shared among the drivers involved, each driver is entitled to sue for damages, but the amount of damages otherwise recoverable will be reduced in direct proportion to each driver’s fault.

The determination of fault involves a careful examination of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident. The police report, witness statements, traffic laws and available evidence such as surveillance footage or vehicle data recorders (commonly known as black boxes) may all be considered.

When it comes to rear-end collisions, the presumption that the driver in the rear vehicle was principally at fault can be challenged by evidence that the driver ahead did any of the following:

  • Reversed and backed into the rear vehicle at a traffic light
  • Made an abrupt lane change without signaling
  • Stopped suddenly in fast-moving traffic
  • Had non-working brake lights 
  • Stopped for an emergency without putting on hazard lights

Any of these reasons may serve to lessen the rear vehicle driver’s proportion of fault.

Bear in mind that New York has a no-fault insurance system, which means that each driver’s insurance company generally pays for their own medical expenses and property damage regardless of who was at fault. However, if the damages exceed a certain threshold or meet specific criteria, a driver may have the right to pursue a claim against the at-fault party.

If you are involved in a rear-end collision, a skilled New York automobile negligence attorney can take the necessary actions to ensure that your rights are protected. An attorney can gather evidence, assess liability and help you recover damages.

At Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP in St. James, New York, our attorneys have deep experience helping injured victims of car crashes get the compensation they need and deserve. Call us today at 631-360-0400 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.