Are You Always at Fault if You Rear End Someone in a Car Accident?

Being involved in a car accident is stressful. It’s even more aggravating if you’re sure that it wasn’t your fault. Since you’re the one who rear-ended the car in front of you, are you automatically presumed to have caused the accident?

Is this always the assumption? Is there anything you can do to prove in court that you weren’t negligent at the time of the collision?

Rear Ended Car Accident Settlement

Florida law requires that all drivers keep a safe distance between them and the car in front of them. Although there isn’t a specific number of feet to keep between cars, Florida Statute 316.0895 requires that a vehicle not follow another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable and prudent.”

This is established precisely to give you enough time to react if the car in front of you suddenly stops. Therefore, if you do rear end the car in front of you, there’s a rebuttable presumption that you’re at fault.

This presumption can be overcome by presenting evidence from which a jury could conclude that the front driver was negligent. This can be done by presenting witness testimony, surveillance video, or by any other means that would prove that the front driver was at fault.

If you rear-ended a car in front of you, the burden of proof is on you. You are the one who has to conduct discovery to figure out a way to show that the front driver was at fault. In the alternative, you could present evidence that you were both at fault and therefore, any amount of damages that the other driver is suing for should be diminished by their own degree of negligence. This is because Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction.

For example, let’s say that the front driver suffered $15,000 in medical bills and property damage. Let’s also say that you can present evidence that they were 50% at fault for the accident. Even if the front driver sues you for $15,000, once it’s proven that they were responsible for half of the damages, you would only be exposed to $7,500 in liability.

The example above is significant because Florida is a no-fault jurisdiction that requires all insurance companies to provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP) to all drivers. This means that, regardless of who was at fault, the policy will cover 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages, up to a maximum of $10,000. So the driver in the car in front of you can file a claim for PIP coverage and have most of their expenses paid for, substantially reducing your own liability. Then again, if you’re positive that you weren’t at fault, you can litigate the claim and show the evidence backing up your position.

Common Injuries from Rear-End Collisions

Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, there are several types of injuries that are common in rear-end collisions. These include:

  1. Whiplash. Whiplash is a neck injury that occurs when the head suddenly moves backward, then forward, as is the case in rear-end collisions. The abrupt force can cause muscles and tendons around the neck and shoulders to stretch or tear, resulting in pain, tenderness, stiffness, decreased range of motion, and headaches.
  2. Concussion. When a person is exposed to forceful trauma, the brain can move back and forth inside the skull. This can cause chemical imbalances in the brain, as well as nerve, cell, and tissue damage. Depending on the severity of the accident, the person may feel dizzy, confused, or lose consciousness immediately after the incident. However, sometimes, symptoms can take days to appear. They include headaches, blurred vision, slurred speech, behavioral changes, and nausea, among others.
  3. Spine injuries. The first few vertebrae at the top of the spine are called cervical vertebrae. They are responsible for head movement and often become misaligned when a person experiences whiplash. This results in back and shoulder pain.
  4. Herniated discs. Between each vertebra, there are jelly-like discs that serve as cushions between these bones. Getting rear-ended can cause some of these discs to slide out of place or rupture. Either scenario places undue stress on the spinal cord, resulting in back pain.
  5. Paralysis. This is, by far, the most serious common injury associated with rear-end collisions. The reason it occurs often in this type of car accident is because most injuries are typically directed to the spine or spinal cord. Paralysis can be partial or full, and it can be temporary or permanent. Regardless of the circumstances, it significantly impacts a person’s quality of life, both physically and psychologically.

What If There Was a Rear-End Collision, but No Damage?

Even if there was no visible damage to your car, you should speak to an experienced personal injury attorney after a rear-end collision. This is because there are time limitations to filing claims and you may discover later that you have a medical issue arising out of the accident. To file a PIP claim with your own insurance company, you have 14 days from the date of the accident. Waiting longer means that you’ll have to pay for your expenses out of pocket.

The longer you wait, the higher the likelihood that the opposing party can blame any injuries on an event after the accident occurred (e.g. work duties, running errands, working out, etc.)

Average Settlement for a Rear End Collision

There are many factors considered when determining a fair settlement for a rear-end collision accident. Some of these are:

  • Current medical bills of the injured party or parties
  • Future medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Car repairs
  • Property damage
  • Loss of consortium
  • Pain and suffering
  • PTSD
  • Depression

In addition, while there is a rebuttable presumption that the driver who rear-ended the other motorist was at fault, such presumption can be rebutted by presenting evidence that the front driver may have been partially negligent too. This is called comparative negligence. In such an event, the percentage of negligence of the driver of the rear-ended car will be deducted from the amount of money to be awarded from the party who hit their vehicle from behind.

Call Clark Law for Rear End Collision Attorneys in Tampa Bay

When you get into a car accident, the first thing to do is seek medical attention. The second most important thing is to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible in order to discuss the details of your accident and determine the best course of action.

Let the experienced car accident attorneys at Clark Law help you. If you or someone you love was involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation.


Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.