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I rear ended someone and they are claiming to be injured. Since I rear ended them and am likely at fault, will I be liable to pay for their injuries?
Being liable for
someone else’s injuries depends on fault—if someone is at fault, they
may be liable. While fault can arise from an intentional act (like
assault or defamation), in a car accident, it’s most commonly the result
of negligence. Unfortunately for you (the rear driver) in a rear-end
accident, the law presumes that you are negligent and at fault.
Negligence is not wrong doing in the sense of ill will or bad motive;
it’s wrongdoing by being more careless than you should be in the
situation. Ordinarily, it’s determined by an analysis of each party’s
actions in an accident, to see whether one—or both—were being more
careless than the hypothetical “reasonable person” would be in those
circumstances. But in some situations, the law assumes carelessness.
One of those situations is a rear-end collision or accident. The
reason is that since the rear driver has more control the circumstances
that can lead to the accident—he controls the following distance; he
also has a better view of, and is in a better place to react to, what is
in front of him, than the front driver is to see and react to what’s
behind him—the law presumes that if an accident occurred, it was due to
the rear-driver’s carelessness. For example: maybe he was following too
close for conditions or his speed.
As stated, this is a presumption, so it is possible to show that the
rear driver was not at fault. One of the most common examples is when
the rear driver was himself rear ended into the car in front of him.
However, it takes a special set of circumstances to remove fault from
the rear driver, which means that in almost all cases, the rear driver
will be liable for injuries—will have to pay for others’ injuries—in a
That said, it is often possible to at least reduce your share of
fault, such as by showing that the other driver was careless, too. (For
example: did he stop abruptly without warning?) That will reduce what
you have to pay. Therefore, if you were in a rear-end accident, you
should get an attorney to represent and defend you, to minimize what you
have to pay.