Is Fault Automatic in a Rear-End Car Accident?

Sometimes the circumstances surrounding car accidents can be murky, especially if neither driver has a dash cam and witness reports are scarce. In some cases, unknowing drivers might assume that certain types of accidents possess the same causes. This is often what happens in rear-end collisions. Because this accident occurs with one car following another, many drivers assume that the rear driver is to blame for rear-end collisions. In determining fault, no driver is ever subject to being pigeon-holed in this way. This is why negligence law dictates how much blame each party possesses in an accident.

Negligence Law

  • Comparative Negligence – Negligence laws relate closely to comparative fault statutes. Many states operate based on comparative fault, meaning they hold each party responsible for their proportion of blame in causing an accident. In practice, comparative fault calls on third-party entities like law enforcement, insurance companies, or the local court to assign a percentage-based fault rating to each driver. This means that a driver is not simply written off, as both parties must assume responsibility for their own percentages of damage.
  • Contributory Negligence – Some states still practice contributory negligence, which is an older, more traditional form of negligence law. In contributory negligence, only one clear party is at fault. This party cannot pursue legal action to recover for their damages. In cases where liability is ambiguous, or shared, neither party can recover their damages. Contributory negligence is more common in no-fault states that already require their drivers to maintain liability insurance.

Even under these strict regulations, neither driver immediately assumes responsibility unless they truly contributed more to the incident. No matter the state, if a driver can provide evidence that they are not completely to blame, they can receive a fair rating. Whether this individual can claim damages, however, depends on the state.

What Counts as Negligence?

During an investigation of a car accident, all valid evidence contributes to building your case. Personal injury claims are based in negligence law, meaning either party – even in rear-end collisions – could have been driving in a negligent manner, contributing to the accident.

The driver in the rear commonly receive blame for causing rear-end collisions. These drivers cause accidents by:

  • Distracted driving, like texting, talking on the phone, or eating
  • Tailgating
  • Failing to keep an adequate space gap between cars
  • Speeding
  • Failing to yield right-of-way

Drivers that lead the other car in rear-end collisions can also act negligently, causing an accident by:

  • Cutting off the other driver
  • Slamming on their brakes after neglecting to keep adequate space between cars
  • Brake checking
  • Failing to maintain their rear brake lights
  • Reversing into the other car

Either driver involved in a rear-end collision can possess any percentage of liability in the accident. To blame the accident solely on the rear driver is an ignorant act. Especially in instances of road rage, drivers often weave in-and-out of traffic and tailgate others to pass through. Offensive driving acts like this could result in the front driver receiving all the blame if their negligent actions cause a rear-end collision.

Rear-end collisions can also be attributed to external factors.

  • Low visibility
  • Inclement weather
  • Dangerous or unexpected
  • road conditions


All factors that created the conditions to cause the accident are considered when determining the outcome of a rear-end collision case. This makes utilizing tools like dash cams important even if you don’t use them every day. All personal injury and insurance claims look at the details of a collision via evidence. Seeing as you cannot prove that someone was driving aggressively in the past, it becomes important to find a method of proof even after the incident.

When addressing the aftermath of a collision, sometimes the best avenue as a defendant or a plaintiff is consulting a professional lawyer. Lawyers that are familiar with car accident cases understand what to look for in proving negligence, which is possible even if law enforcement initially ruled you as being at-fault. If you were involved in a rear-end collision and want to discuss the details surrounding your case, contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation.