Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of automobile accidents Fort Worth. Here you can learn more about who's typically at fault in a rear-end wreck, exceptions to the rule and what to do next.
Who's At-Fault in a Rear End Car Accident in Texas?
All drivers have something called a legal duty of care, which means drivers have to follow the law, keep their car working properly and avoid driving recklessly.
When a driver fails this and causes an accident, they’re usually the one at-fault. In rear-end collisions, the at-fault driver might have been texting, daydreaming, speeding, blowing their nose, whatever. These are all negligent actions.
When another driver’s mistake causes a wreck, Texas law allows you to pursue compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, battered car, and more. However, you can’t just point fingers and expect the other driver (and their insurance company) to cough up the money you’re asking for. First you’ll need to prove negligence. You must prove the other driver was doing something reckless to cause your accident.
The courts call this the burden of proof. Simply put, the burden is upon YOU to prove the other driver caused the accident, and the accident caused your injuries.
In addition to proving the other driver was at-fault for your rear-end accident, you’ll need to show that you weren’t at-fault (meaning you didn’t contribute to the accident).
Let me be extra clear. If you've been hurt in a rear-end accident, you deserve compensation for your injuries and property damage. Don't let the nature of the court system and the work involved deter you - you've suffered at the hand of someone else. It's up to them to make it right!
Is the Driver Who Rear-Ended Another Car Always At-Fault in Texas?
There's a common belief that if you rear-end someone in Texas, you're at fault for the wreck. However, juries don't make this same assumption. A jury may find that the front vehicle was at fault, they may distribute fault between the two drivers, or they could even decide that the accident wasn't the fault of either driver.
(You can read our story about how we helped Mark after his rear end accident).
Some people are surprised to learn that multiple drivers - including the victim - can be found negligent in an accident. However, this isn't uncommon. The amount of money you can recover will depend on how much you contributed to your own accident. For instance, if a car cut in front of you and slammed on their brakes, causing you to hit them, they would be at fault. But let's say you were also texting while driving and didn't see them right away - then you, too, would have a hand in the accident.
If a jury decides you're "more" responsible for the accident (51% of the fault is on you), you can't recover anything from the other driver.
To Call Another Driver "At Fault," You Have to Prove Negligence
Texas is a "comparative negligence state," meaning that in order to win a claim against another driver, you have to prove that they were negligent. In a nutshell, this means proving that they did something reckless or careless, and that mistake led to the car wreck. This is often why the "tailing vehicle" is at fault in a rear-end collision - they were acting reckless by tailgating the car in front of them, leaving no room to stop if needed.
When Can the Front Car Be At Fault in a Rear-End Collision?
The following are examples of collisions that are the fault of the front car (the one that is hit in the rear end):
1. When the front car pulls out of a parking lot. If a car pulls out of a parking lot without looking to make sure the way is clear, or if they speed out and misjudge the distance between oncoming traffic, it's that driver's fault. Cars pulling out of lots must yield to the right of way.
2.The front car changes lanes unsafely. If a car changes lanes and hits their brakes, and is rear-ended as a result, it's their fault. Unfortunately, these instances are tough to prove, and there are still arguments against the rear-end driver. If the second car did not leave enough room for the first car to merge, it might still be the rear-ender's fault.
3. The front car slams on the brakes for no reason. In a normal situation, a car must keep a safe distance from the other car in order to come to a complete stop. However, there are certain situations where the front car stops for no reason at all. These situations are rare, but any resulting accident is the front car's fault.
Do You Need an Attorney?
Not everyone needs an attorney after a rear-end collision. But how do you know? I’ll put it to you like this – if the other side doesn’t cooperate (for instance, the other driver doesn’t admit fault and the insurance company refuses to pay you anything), are you comfortable paying for the damage to your car and your injuries yourself? If so, it’s likely you’ll be able to handle the case on your own.
This threshold is different for different people. Some people are comfortable handling a $500 claim, a $2,000 claim, even a $5,000 claim. Others, however, don’t want to risk that money and would rather consult with a professional.
If you’re seriously hurt, I’d highly advise you consult with an attorney. When significant injuries enter the mix, things get trickier on both ends. Insurance companies are less likely to cooperate and you have more at stake. Hard injury insurance claims often require expert medical testimony, discovery of evidence (learning what the other side has), etc. Your attorney can subpoena this evidence and more.
Regardless of your situation, it's always a good idea to get a free consultation. At my firm, the Anderson Law Firm (with offices in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas), I offer free consultations to anyone who’s curious to learn more. I do this so that potential clients have the opportunity to discuss their case and their options with a Board Certified attorney so that they can make an informed decision.