Liability for a rear-end accident usually falls on the rear car unless the leading driver’s negligence led to the crash. Therefore, who is at fault must be decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on which driver caused the collision.
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How is Liability Decided in a Rear End Accident?
Since Texas is a fault-based state when it comes to car accidents, liability is decided by determining which driver was negligent or failed to use reasonable care. Drivers have a duty of care to drive safely and follow traffic laws. When that duty is violated (e.g., speeding, texting, abrupt lane changes), they are considered negligent. If their negligent actions cause a collision, they are liable for resulting damages. However, determining fault can be challenging. Insurance companies often rely on driver statements, the police report, witness statements, the location of vehicle damage, photos of the scene, any available surveillance or video footage of the crash, and any other available evidence.
Each party involved will then be assigned a percentage of fault based on their degree of negligence in causing the accident. Under Texas’s modified comparative negligence law, each driver’s compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if the lead driver is awarded $100,000 but found 40% at fault, they will only receive 60% of their award, or $60,000. In this case, the rear driver would not be able to recover compensation since they would be considered 60% at fault. Under Texas law, if you are found 51% or more responsible for a car accident, you cannot recover compensation.
When the Leading Car Can Be at Fault in a Rear-End Collision
Here are some examples of when a leading driver be liable when another vehicle rear-ends them:
Failing to yield the right of way
Making an illegal turn
Making an abrupt lane change without warning, so the rear driver cannot avoid a collision
Driving with tail lights that are out or broken
Backing up or out of a parking spot without looking
Traveling too slow for the current traffic conditions
Braking suddenly for no valid reason
Failing to pull over to the side of the road for a mechanical problem with their vehicle
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
A third party can also be liable in some rear-end accidents. For instance, if a preventable road condition or defective vehicle/part contributed to the collision. In those cases, liability may partially or entirely fall on the government agency responsible for maintaining the roads or the defective vehicle or part manufacturer.
Disputing Fault After a Rear-End Accident
If you disagree with an insurance company’s decision on fault in a rear-end accident, it is best to notify them in writing immediately. Your letter may lead to further investigation and possibly a revised decision. On the other hand, if the insurer upholds their decision, speak to a Houston car accident lawyer as soon as possible if you have not already. They can help you collect the evidence you need to support your claim and recover the compensation you deserve.