Am I liable for injuries if I rear ended someone?

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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 the absence of adequate care

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.

The Rear Driver is Presumed To Be at Fault

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 rear-end accident.

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.