Who Is At Fault In A Rear-End Collision?

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Rear-end collisions are virtually always the fault of the driver in the back. However, every case has circumstances that make it unique, and it is crucial to understand the laws that govern auto accident cases in Michigan. Before you file a claim, you may benefit from talking to a car accident attorney who can help you identify who is at fault in your case and how you can recover your losses.

Why Is the Driver in the Rear Typically at Fault?


During a rear-end collision, the driver behind another vehicle is typically at fault because they have a duty not to trail the other car too closely. Therefore, when a rear-end accident occurs, it is generally because the trailing driver failed to uphold that duty, significantly diminishing their ability to stop and avoid a collision. However, there are exceptions to this rule. First, consider how a tailing driver can cause a rear-end accident.

Common Ways the Driver in the Back Can Cause a Rear-End Collision

The fault does not automatically fall on the driver in the back for a rear-end collision. First, you have to define the reason for the crash, and more often than not, it was an error by the trailing driver. Some common causes include:

  • Distracted driving. Distractions on the road can be cognitive, manual, or visual. Mental distractions are often daydreams that remove the mind from an attentive state. However, manual distractions remove the hands from the wheel, and visual distractions remove the eyes from the road. Any distraction can cause a driver to collide with another.
  • SpeedingSpeeding, especially in close traffic, makes it substantially harder to stop as quickly as needed. This is why going with the flow of traffic is essential.
  • Driving under the influence. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol endangers everyone else’s lives on the road. Mind-altering substances make it difficult to adequately gauge how much time is needed to stop a moving vehicle, significantly decreasing reaction time.
  • Tailgating. One of the most common causes of rear-end collisions is tailgating, when a driver follows another vehicle too closely, decreasing the time and space they must stop. Tailgating is illegal in Michigan and is punishable by fines, even without an accident. Therefore, if it is the cause of an accident, the offender is automatically at fault.

Police often pull drivers over for following too closely, talking on their phones, and speeding because these actions present a high risk for collisions. However, the driver in front can be at fault under certain circumstances.

When Is the Driver in the Front Liable?


Sometimes a rear-end crash results from external causes that no one can control. For example, inclement weather can cause people to lose control of their vehicles or hazards on the road could lead to a crash. However, the driver in front can be at fault if:

  • Leave their vehicle on the road after experiencing mechanical issues
  • Place the vehicle suddenly into reverse
  • Fail to fix broken tail lights or brake lights

A common cause that could constitute gross negligence of malintent is brake checking. Tailgating and brake checking are two types of road rage from opposite positions. Brake checking occurs when the driver in front of another vehicle responds to a tailgating vehicle behind them by abruptly hitting the brakes, forcing the other driver to stop suddenly. It can lead to a dangerous collision, especially if the driver in the back is distracted by something else when the brake check occurs. It can also lead to physical and verbal altercations between the drivers, causing further legal recourse.

How Do You Prove Negligence in a Rear-End Collision?


Proving fault for rear-end collisions is often straightforward. The first element of a negligence claim states that you must verify the other driver owed you a duty of care at the time of the accident. This is typically a given in auto accident cases because all drivers are responsible for ensuring they do not violate any traffic laws while on the road. The second element of a negligence claim states that you must prove the other driver violates traffic laws and, therefore, breached the duty of care owed to you. For example, tailgating, speeding, or brake checking are violations. The third element states that you must prove that the at-fault driver’s negligent action caused your accident. Finally, the evidence must directly correlate the accident to your injuries and damages. If any of these components are missing, it will impact your ability to recover damages.

How Do You Recover Damages From a Rear-End Collision in Michigan?


There are two avenues to compensation for a rear-end collision in Michigan. First, you must file a claim with your personal injury protection insurance. If you suffered severe injuries, you could skip the no-fault system requirement and file a claim or lawsuit against the other driver to recover more damages than PIP insurance would allow.

PIP covers medical expenses and a portion of lost income relative to the care received and missed work. However, if you suffer severe impairment of bodily function or permanent disfigurement, you can skip this process and file a fault claim. The same is true if the other driver is a non-resident with insurance outside the state or if the accident occurred in Michigan. Additionally, if your claim is for $1,000 or less for damage to your vehicle and the other driver is at least 50% liable for the accident, you can file a claim against them. This concept can be challenging to follow, especially if you are unfamiliar with tort law in Michigan. To ensure you get the compensation you need, you would likely benefit from speaking with a personal injury lawyer who will have experience working with rear-end collision victims.

When Do You Need a Car Accident Attorney To Help With Your Case?


If you were hit by a negligent driver and suffered severe injuries, you could benefit from hiring a car accident attorney, even if you think you have an open-and-shut case. Without a thorough understanding of personal injury law, you risk severely undervaluing your claim. Additionally, you will need to handle the insurance company alone, and adjusters are known to put the company’s interests above the client’s. They will often go above and beyond to undermine your right to compensation. However, when you have an experienced legal representative, you can focus on recovering from your injuries while your lawyer takes over the case in your place.

When you work with Mike Morse Law Firm, you have a team of experts in personal injury law. We have over 40 of the best attorneys in Michigan, with a group of professionals assisting each case. Still, we keep our caseloads light to ensure your case gets all the attention it deserves, and that you have the compensation you need to get your life back on track. We also recognize the financial hardship a devastating accident can cause. That is why we will review your case for free, and if you decide to work with us, you will pay no fees until we win. So contact Mike Morse Law Firm at (855) 937-1952 to schedule a free case review today. At the very least, you walk away with your questions answered.

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