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Who is At Fault for a Rear End Collision in California?

Rear end collisions are among the most types of traffic accidents. According to data published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), approximately half of all multi-vehicle crashes reported in the United States are rear-end collisions.

While some people assume the rear driver is always to blame for these accidents, there are some exceptions to this general rule. Here, our San Francisco car accident lawyers provide an overview of what you should know about rear end collision liability in California.

The Rear Driver is Likely to Be at Fault — But Liability Is Not Guaranteed

California does not impose automatic liability on the driver who rear ended another vehicle in a crash. To be clear, the rear driver is certainly more likely to be at fault for this type of accident. In most rear end collisions, the second driver in line is the one who is held responsible for the crash. Some of the most common reasons why rear driver negligence causes these types of accident include:

  • Speeding or driving too fast for road conditions;
  • Following too closely (tailgating);
  • Distracted driving, including texting and driving; and
  • Failure to conduct proper vehicle maintenance, including faulty tires and bad brakes.

That being said, there are cases in which the front-end driver may bear some, or all, of the liability for a rear end crash. The most common reason why this occurs is an unsafe lane change accident. If the rear end collision occurs, at least in part, because the front driver changed lanes directly in the path of an oncoming vehicle, they may be held legally liable for the resulting rear end collision. While this type of crash may still be a rear end collision, the front driver may have created the underlying safety hazard.

Other types of negligence could also result in the rear driver facing a reduced level of liability. As an example, if the front vehicle in line has a broken taillight or a non-functional brake light, the rear driver may escape some or all the responsibility for a resulting crash.

Serious Rear End Collisions Require a Comprehensive Investigation

Even in rear end collisions, disputes can and do still arise over liability. Therefore, every serious auto accident should be comprehensively investigated by an experienced professional. Your San Francisco car accident lawyer will help you secure all the evidence needed to prove liability and protect your rights. Remember, California is a comparative negligence state. Motorists held partially liable for even a small percentage of their own accident will have their compensation reduced proportionally — in some cases, this could potentially take thousands of dollars out of your settlement offer or verdict.

Were You Injured in a Rear End Collision in Northern California?

We are here to help. At Bracamontes & Vlasak, our California motor vehicle accident attorneys are strong, aggressive advocates for injured victims. If you or someone you know was hurt in a rear end crash, please ​contact our law firm at 415-835-6777 for a free case evaluation. From our office in San Francisco, we serve communities throughout the Bay Area, including Oakland, San Jose, Fremont, and Santa Rosa.

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