Who Is Responsible in a Rear End Collision?

by Kevin Belhumeur
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With more then 2.5 million rear end collisions reported each year, the National Safety Council says that those types of collisions are the most common type of car accident. They typically occur when a driver is following a car too closely or is driving too fast to stop. In rear end collisions, the driver of the rear car usually is liable, if found to be negligent, and he must provide compensation to cover all the expenses pertaining to the accident.


Dictionary.com defines negligence as the failure to exercise the degree of care that the law requires for the protection of other persons, or those interests of other persons, that may be injuriously affected by the want of such care. Speeding, driving recklessly, following a car too closely or driving inattentively can all be deemed forms of driver negligence. Proving that negligence occurred plays a key role in determining whether or not a person is at fault in a rear end collision.


The person driving the rear car is fully liable for damages in the vast majority of rear end collisions, according to the Car Accident Attorneys website. This is because the person failed to drive in a way that would have allowed him to stop short of hitting the car ahead. When found liable, or legally responsible, the driver of the rear car must provide compensation to cover all of the expenses of the "damaged" party. Compensation in rear end collisions is usually paid by the negligent driver's insurance policy.


Some situations exist in which the driver of a rear-ending car is not at fault for a collision, according to Car Accident Attorneys. This is usually the case in an accident that involves multiple cars. For example, suppose three cars are traveling in the same lane on a highway and the first car, which is in front, breaks sharply due to sudden traffic. Naturally, this will cause the second car to break sharply as well. If the third car is following too closely or traveling at an inappropriate speed, it may slam into the back of the stopped second car, pushing the front of that vehicle into the back of the first vehicle. Because the second car came to a complete stop prior to being hit, liability will be placed solely on the third driver for damage caused to the first two cars.


Rear end collisions are also known as whiplash accidents. Approximately 20 percent of front-car passengers exhibit symptoms of whiplash after a rear end collision, according to the Auto Accident Resource's statistics page. Such an injury usually occurs when a stopped car is struck from behind and the heads of the passengers accelerate forward, with up to 10 times the force of gravity. This breakneck forward motion often results in cervical spine and ligament injuries. The Spine Research Institute of San Diego describes common symptoms of whiplash to include neck pain and headaches.

No-Fault System

Although most states place liability for damages on the negligent driver, 12 states have adopted a no-fault system regarding rear end collision compensation, according to Car Accident Attorneys. The no-fault system requires damages to be paid for by each driver's insurance policy, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. The 12 states that currently follow the policy are Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah.

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