Who’s Responsible When One Car Hits Another from Behind?
According to data compiled by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), about one in every three motor vehicle accidents across the country are rear-end collisions. The statistics show a variety of causes, including excessive speed, failure to allow adequate distance, overly aggressive driving, distracted driving, and operating a vehicle while intoxicated or impaired.
It’s commonly believed that, when one car strikes another from behind, the driver of the trailing vehicle is always legally responsible. While that may be true in the majority of cases, there are situations where the trailing driver may not be liable.
In claims arising out of car accidents, liability is most often based on the legal theory of negligence. Under that principle, all persons in society are held to the standard of care of acting reasonably under the circumstances at any given time. In a lawsuit, the finder of fact (usually the jury) must determine whether the actions of the parties at the time of the accident were reasonable.
With respect to a rear-end collision, the jury may consider these acts of the driver of the trailing car:
- Was the trailing driver distracted by a handheld device, some roadside attraction, or a passenger in the vehicle, or was the driver not paying attention to the road for some other reason?
- Was the trailing driver speeding or driving too fast under prevailing weather conditions?
- Did the trailing driver allow a reasonable distance between the cars to permit safe braking?
- Was the trailing driver engaging in aggressive behavior?
- Was the trailing driver drunk or impaired in any way?
The jury also may look at the actions of the driver in front:
- Were brake or warning lights broken, burnt out, or malfunctioning?
- Did the driver in front carelessly put the car into reverse?
Contact Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie, Seelaus & Kraft LLP
At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie, Seelaus & Kraft LLP, we have protected the rights of personal injury victims in Pennsylvania since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. We are currently communicating with clients by phone, text message, e-mail, and videoconference. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or 302-594-4535 or contact us online.
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