Who Pays for Rear-End Accidents?

January 12, 2024 | Ed Bernstein
Who Pays for Rear-End Accidents?

Accidents in which one car strikes the back of another car are among the most common collisions on our roads, accounting for about 29 percent of all crashes in the United States. When the police arrive at the scene of a rear-end accident, they often automatically presume automatic fault on the part of the driver in the back.

While this idea holds true in most cases, the circumstances of every collision are different. For this reason, it is possible for a driver who was hit from behind to be partially or even entirely at fault.

Let’s delve into the complexities of rear-end collisions and discuss situations where the rear or the front driver must pay for for causing the accident. If you find yourself involved in a rear-end collision and require legal assistance, consider consulting with a car accident lawyer to navigate through the complexities of the legal process.

When Must the Rear Driver Pay for a Rear-End Accident?

In rear-end collisions, the driver whose vehicle hits another vehicle from behind usually bears fault. That is mainly because their actions are more likely to result in a collision with the vehicle in front than the front driver’s actions to lead to a crash with the trailing vehicle.

Common examples of the rear driver’s negligent behaviors that may result in an accident include:

  • Distracted driving. Not paying enough attention is one of the most common causes of rear-end accidents. If the driver of the rear car was distracted by a text message, telephone call, or any other activity that takes their attention away from the road, they may not notice the front vehicle stop or slow down in time to avoid a collision. Statistically speaking, about 12 percent of all fatal crashes in the United States involve distracted driving.
  • Aggressive driving. Aggressive driving, which includes tailgating, sudden lane changes, and erratic maneuvers, is another leading cause of rear-end accidents. If the rear car driver was tailgating the front car too closely due to road rage, they may not have had enough time to stop when the front car braked suddenly.
  • Drowsy driving. Drowsy driving is an increasingly common issue on the road, especially on long journeys. If the driver of the rear car was drowsy or fatigued, they may not react quickly enough to a sudden stop of the front vehicle.
  • Tailgating. Tailgating is a prime mechanism in rear-end collisions. If the rear driver is driving too close to the front car, they may not have sufficient stopping distance to avoid a collision when the car in front slows down or stops abruptly.
  • Speeding. Speeding often contributes to different types of car accidents, including rear-end collisions. If the driver of the rear car is exceeding the speed limit, they make it much more difficult for themselves to react to unexpected changes in traffic.
  • Driving too fast for weather or road conditions. Weather conditions like rain, snow, or fog impede the driving situation. If the driver of the rear car is driving too fast for these conditions, they have a reduced ability to stop before colliding with the front car if it stops suddenly.
  • Brake failure. If the rear car’s brakes fail, the driver may not control the vehicle, particularly when reacting to unforeseen changes in traffic. As a result, the car may end up crashing into the back of the front car.

These behaviors increase the risk of being involved in a rear-end accident. However, the true cause of a collision in which one vehicle crashes into the back of another may not be immediately apparent without conducting an in-depth investigation.

When Will the Front Driver Need to Pay for a Rear-End Accident?

Who Pays for Rear-End Accidents?

There is a common misconception that the rear driver is always at fault when one vehicle hits another from behind.

While the driver who hits a car in front causes most such collisions, the driver in front can also cause a crash.

Common examples of the front driver’s fault in rear-end accidents include:

  • Swerving. If the front driver swerves abruptly and without warning, the rear driver may not have enough time to react and avoid a collision. This often happens when the driver who gets hit from behind fails to check their side-view mirrors when changing direction.
  • Brake checking. Brake checking is when the front driver suddenly and intentionally applies the brakes without any valid reason, causing the rear driver to rear-end them. This may occur by tapping the brake pedal several times or slamming hard on the brakes.
  • Failure to signal. If the front driver does not signal when turning or changing lanes and causes the rear driver to collide with them from behind, they can be held at fault for the accident due to their failure to give proper signals.
  • Improper turns. When the front driver makes an improper or illegal turn, violating the rear driver’s right of way and turning into their lane, the resulting rear-end collision may become their responsibility.
  • Backing up. If the front driver suddenly backs up without signaling and taking proper precautions, causing the rear driver to collide with their car, the front driver is typically at fault for the accident. Statistically, backing-up accidents cause an estimated 15,000 injuries in traffic crashes and another 15,000 injuries in non-traffic crashes (collisions with pedestrians).
  • Non-functioning brake lights. When the front driver’s brake lights are not working properly, a rear-end accident is more likely to happen because the rear driver has no way of knowing that the front car is slowing down or stopping. Every motorist must ensure that brake lights on their vehicles function properly.

Even if an accident involves any of the above-mentioned factors, the front driver may not be automatically at fault for the collision. You might want to seek help from an attorney who can conduct an investigation and assess the actions and circumstances leading up to the accident.

What Evidence Can Help Prove Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

Proving that the rear or front driver was at fault for causing a rear-end collision hinges on the ability of one party to show that the other party was at fault because they violated traffic rules or were otherwise negligent. This can be shown through evidence such as:

Traffic Camera Footage

One of the most credible and indisputable pieces of evidence that can help prove fault in a rear-end accident – or any other type of road accident, for that matter – is traffic camera footage.

Cameras installed at intersections or on nearby buildings can capture the moment of impact, the vehicles' speed, and the drivers' behavior. This footage can show that the other driver was negligent (e.g., failing to maintain a safe following distance or making an illegal lane change).

Location of Damage to Vehicles

In a rear-end accident, the impact usually occurs at the back of the vehicle. Nonetheless, the exact location of the damage on each car can help determine the angle at which the two cars collided, providing an important clue for determining who was responsible for the accident.

Severity of Vehicle Damage

In crashes where one vehicle gets hit from behind, the rear vehicle will likely have more severe damage than the front. If the car that hit the other car has significant damage, it can indicate that the driver was following too closely or was not paying attention to what was happening in front of them.

Skid Marks on the Road

If the vehicles involved in the crash left behind skid marks, they can potentially provide crucial information about the circumstances leading up to the accident. Skid marks can indicate how fast the vehicles were going during the collision, how long the driver had been braking, and the direction of travel.

This information can help pinpoint one driver’s fault or establish the degree of responsibility of both drivers.

Statements from Drivers and Witnesses

While statements from both drivers and eyewitnesses, including passengers in the vehicles involved, can also help determine fault, this piece of evidence may not be as reliable as other pieces of evidence.

Despite this fact, statements may still provide valuable information about the drivers' behavior leading up to the accident, such as whether they were driving recklessly, distracted, or following too closely.

How Can an Attorney Help You Prove Fault After a Rear-End Collision? 

Whether you are the front or rear driver involved in a rear-end accident, you may need an attorney’s help to prove the other party’s fault and pursue full compensation for your damages and losses.

A skilled personal injury attorney can assist you in several ways, including:

  • Evaluate your case. The first step in proving fault after a rear-end collision is having a professional evaluate your case without missing any relevant details. An attorney can analyze the accident's circumstances and determine if there is enough evidence to establish fault. They can also review eyewitness accounts and get access to traffic surveillance footage to support your case, among other things.
  • Collect evidence. An attorney can collect all the relevant evidence to prove that the other driver was at fault, regardless of whether you were struck from behind or you were the one who hit the other vehicle. They can photograph the scene, secure convincing witness statements, and even hire accident reconstruction experts to help establish how the accident occurred.
  • Negotiate a settlement. Your attorney can help negotiate a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company without going to court. With their knowledge and negotiation skills, an attorney can seek the compensation you need to rebuild your life.
  • Prepare your case for court. Negotiations may not always produce a favorable outcome. If the at-fault driver’s insurance company isn’t willing to provide a fair settlement, your attorney can take your case to court and fight for fair compensation in the courtroom. They can prepare a solid case and present it in a way that maximizes your chances of getting a favorable outcome.
  • Fight for the right type of compensation. As a victim of a rear-end accident, you may be entitled to several types of compensation, including medical bills, loss of income, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, and many others. An experienced attorney can fight for the maximum compensation and ensure you should not experience financial hardship because of someone else’s negligent conduct.

If the accident wasn’t your fault, you should not have to pay for medical treatment from your pocket or suffer other financial losses. An attorney can make level-headed decisions in your case and improve the chances of success in your claim.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Fault in Rear-End Accidents

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Fault in Rear-End Accidents

If you have been in an accident where you rear-ended another car or another driver hit you from behind, you may be wondering how to prove fault and what pursuing compensation entails. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject.

What are the common injuries in rear-end accidents?

When a rear-end collision occurs, the severity of injuries depends on many factors, including the size of the vehicles and the speed and force involved. These accidents can cause various injuries, but the most common one is whiplash.

Whiplash occurs when your head and neck are suddenly and forcefully jerked forward and backward, causing strain to the muscles and ligaments in your neck. Whiplash symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, dizziness, shoulder pain, and others. Other common injuries in rear-end accidents include bruises, cuts, fractures, and concussions.

Are you always at fault if you rear-end someone while merging?

In many cases, yes. The driver who rear-ends another vehicle is usually considered at fault for the accident, regardless of the circumstances that led to it. However, if the driver in front was driving recklessly or engaged in negligent behaviors, they may share the blame for the accident or be entirely at fault.

Are you always at fault if you hit a car from behind?

Generally, the driver who hits another vehicle from behind is presumed to be at fault, but exceptions exist. For example, if the driver in front was driving and suddenly slammed on the brakes without warning, they may be at fault for the accident if another car crashed into their back.

I was rear-ended. How much is my claim worth?

It is a common misconception that claims from rear-end accidents are not worth much. The value of your claim depends on a wide range of factors, such as the severity of your injuries, the cost of medical treatments, and the extent of property damage, among others.

In general, you deserve compensation for your medical expenses, loss of income, property damage, and other losses you have endured due to the other party’s fault.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.