If you have recently found yourself in that position in California but were hurt in the crash, you’re probably wondering, “Can I get compensated for injuries if I rear-end another vehicle?”
You aren’t the first to ask. Rear-end collisions are, by far, the most common type of car accident in California. They happen at speeds high and low, and everywhere from freeways to parking lots. Even in “minor” crashes, it’s possible for both parties to walk away with significant damages.
So who pays for your injuries if you’re the rear-ender? Let’s look at the rules in California.
Surprising But True: Rear-End Drivers Aren’t Always at Fault
Generally speaking, the rear driver is the party with the most control over whether a rear-end accident happens. He or she is in the best position to avoid or avert collision. That’s why the tailing driver is the liable party in the majority of rear-end accidents.
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 at fault. The specific facts and evidence matter a great deal in making that determination.
I Was Partly at Fault. Can I Get Compensated for Injuries After Rear-Ending Another Vehicle?
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.
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.
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 lawyer can step in, arguing for the lowest possible apportionment of fault in your case and working to make a real difference in the outcome of your claim.
The most important thing to understand is that, even in a situation like the one described above, you can get compensated for injuries if you rear-end another vehicle (depending on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding your claim).
I Was Entirely at Fault. 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 your policy includes Medical Payments coverage, it can help you with your copays and deductibles after you’ve handed your medical bills over to your health insurance carrier.
If you don’t have health insurance, you may be able to use your Medical Payments coverage to 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, we 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 companies are 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 as soon as possible.
At The Law Offices of Mickey Fine, We Fight Hard for the People We Represent.
Want to learn more about whether you can get compensated for injuries if you rear-end another vehicle? The Law Offices of Mickey Fine can help you understand your rights.
If you have been injured in a rear-end accident in California, whether your car was in front, in the middle, or behind, you may be entitled to compensation.
We invite you to contact our office and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a Bakersfield & Manhattan Beach car accident lawyer. Once we learn more about your situation, 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. And the initial consultation is absolutely free.
Call 661-333-3333 in Bakersfield (or 310-546-8146 in Manhattan Beach, CA) to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney today, or simply contact us online.