Liability and Compensation for Rear-End Accidents
If you’ve suffered injuries after your vehicle rear-ended another car in California, you might wonder who pays for your injuries or if you will be left footing the bill.
A Rear-end car accident is the most common type of vehicle accident in California. They happen at different speeds and everywhere from freeways to parking lots. Even in “minor” rear-end collisions, it’s possible for both parties to walk away with serious injuries and significant damages.
So who pays for your injuries if you’re the driver in the rear? Let’s look at the rules in California.
Are Rear-End Drivers Always at Fault?
Driving instructors and parents of young drivers have drilled into their students’ heads that if they rear-end the car in front of them, it’s likely because they were following too closely behind the vehicle they rear-ended.
Generally speaking, the rear driver is the party with the most control over whether a rear-end crash happens. They are in the best position to avoid or avert a collision. That’s why the tailing driver is the at-fault driver in many rear-end collisions.
There are exceptions, however. In other words, fault isn’t automatic. Hypothetical scenarios in which the driver who gets rear-ended might be at fault include:
- The driver’s brake lights are broken or burned out.
- The driver suddenly begins to drive in reverse.
- The driver slams on the brakes for no reason (or to “brake check” the car behind them).
- The driver decides to make an extreme last-minute turn.
- The driver is operating an inadequately maintained vehicle / driving on a flat tire.
In any of these scenarios—which are merely examples and not necessarily an exhaustive list—the driver who gets rear-ended (the “tailed driver”) could be assigned 100% of the fault. Or a court might decide that both the tailing driver and the tailed driver are partly to blame. The specific facts and evidence matter a great deal in making the determination of which driver is at fault.
I Was Partly at Fault for a Rear-End Collision. Can I Recover Compensation for My Rear-End Accident Injuries?
California follows a rule called pure comparative negligence. It allows someone to recover compensation for their injuries, even if that person was partially at fault for the accident.
In that case, your financial recovery would be reduced by your percentage of the fault.
Let’s consider a hypothetical to illustrate how pure comparative negligence works in a rear-end collision:
Demi is driving down the road while Patrick follows behind her. Demi suddenly remembers that she’s driving east when she meant to go west, so she slams on her brakes out of nowhere. Patrick doesn’t see the stop coming, and his car crashes into the back of Demi’s car. Both drivers suffer neck injuries.
Demi should not have stopped so suddenly without warning. But Patrick also should have maintained enough following distance—and paid enough attention—to respond to Demi’s sudden stop and avoid the crash.
In a lawsuit, a court might decide that Demi was 40% at fault and Patrick was 60% at fault. Even though Patrick was more negligent than Demi was, the law won’t prevent him from getting compensation for his injuries.
If Patrick suffered $100,000 worth of damages, the court would reduce his recovery by his percentage of fault (60%). Patrick would therefore be able to recover $40,000 in compensation.
Who Decides How Fault Gets Assigned After an Accident?
That’s where an experienced and aggressive Bakersfield car accident attorney can step in. An attorney can argue for the lowest possible apportionment of fault in your case and work to make a real difference in the outcome of your claim and settlement offer.
The most important thing to understand when you’ve been in a rear-end collision is that, even in a situation like the one described above, you may still be able to recover compensation for injuries if you rear-end another vehicle.
I Was Entirely at Fault for My Rear-End Collision. Can I Still Get Compensated for My Injuries?
If you were 100% at fault for a rear-end collision, you may still be able to get compensation for your injuries under your own auto insurance policy, depending on your coverages and policy limits.
For example, if it’s determined that you caused the accident, and your policy includes Medical Payments coverage, it can help you with your co-pays and deductibles after you’ve handed your medical bills over to your health insurance company.
If you don’t have health insurance, you may be able to use your insurance coverage. Medical Payments, also known as med pay, can pay for most or all of your medical expenses. Your Collision coverage, meanwhile, may cover the cost of any damage to your own vehicle.
It’s important to fully understand your auto insurance policy and the coverage it provides, including any exclusions, policy limits, and limitations. If you don’t currently have Medical Payments coverage, our personal injury lawyers encourage you to consider adding it. Carrying health insurance at all times is important too.
However, you should never assume that you are at fault for a rear-end collision, even if you were the tailing driver. The question of legal fault is complex. Don’t make assumptions about your liability. Even if the insurance company is telling you that you are at fault, you might have rights that you aren’t aware of. Talk to an experienced Bakersfield car accident lawyer about your rear-end collision as soon as possible.
Whose Insurance Company Pays My Rear End Collision Settlement?
California is an at-fault state when it comes to auto accident claims, including rear-end accidents. That means the at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for covering the cost of injuries caused by the accident.
In some cases, the other driver’s insurance company does not cover all the accident-related expenses. This is where it would benefit you to have legal representation. If necessary, your lawyer will fight for a personal injury claim on your behalf.
Call a Rear-End Accident Lawyer at The Law Offices of Mickey Fine. We Fight Hard for the People We Represent.
Want to know whether you can recover compensation for the expenses related to your rear-end accident? The Law Offices of Mickey Fine can help you understand your rights.
If you suffered injuries in a rear-end accident in California, whether you were the front or rear driver, you may be entitled to compensation.
We invite you to contact our office and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a Bakersfield car accident lawyer. Once we learn more about your auto accident, we can let you know whether we believe we can help you pursue a claim for financial compensation.
Time limits do apply to personal injury claims in California, so please don’t delay.
At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, we fight to maximize financial compensation for our clients. We’d like to fight for you, too. We will never charge a fee for our services unless we get you money first. The initial consultation is absolutely free.
Call 661-333-3333 in Bakersfield to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney today, or simply contact us online.