Although the assumption is that the driver in the rear is at fault for a rear-end crash, sometimes the motorist in the front car could share some blame as well. This could affect rear-end collision fault and could thus affect any compensation that accident victims are entitled to.
If the driver in the front vehicle stopped short or cut someone off, it will be important to assess the level of blame to attribute to them. It’s also important to determine if the laws in the state where the accident took place subscribe to contributory negligence or comparative negligence rules.
In a small number of states, contributory negligence rules apply when determining who is responsible for losses after an accident. Under contributory negligence rules, if a motorist contributed in any way to causing an accident, that motorist cannot recover any compensation.
This would mean if the driver of the lead vehicle was even 1% to blame for causing a rear-end crash, they would be entitled to no compensation at all—even if the driver of the rear vehicle was 99% at fault.
Comparative negligence is a far more common approach in accident cases. Under comparative negligence rules, if a driver is partially to blame for causing a crash, they can still recover partial compensation. For example, if the driver of the front car was found to be 10% at fault and sustained $100,000 in damages, the driver in the rear vehicle would be responsible for covering 90% of losses because they were 90% to blame.
Some states have pure comparative negligence rules, which means an accident victim can recover compensation from another motorist regardless of what level of culpability the victim shares. In these states, if the lead driver was 70% at fault for the crash, he could still recover compensation for 30% of his losses from the motorist in the rear vehicle.
Other states have modified comparative negligence rules. These allow the accident victim to obtain compensation only if the other motorist was at least 51% to blame. Here are some rear-end collision settlement examples when modified comparative negligence rules apply:
- If driver A is either 50% or 51% (The specific percentage depends on state rules) responsible for the crash, driver A cannot recover any compensation from driver B.
- If driver A is less than 50% or 51% responsible, driver A can recover partial compensation. If driver A was 30% responsible, they would be able to collect 70% of damages from driver B. If driver A was 10% responsible, they would be able to collect 90% of damages from driver B.
Determining rear-end collision fault can be complicated in cases where both parties were partly to blame. Insurance companies may determine what amount of fault they are willing to accept and make a settlement offer based on this assessment. But if the accident victim doesn’t agree with this determination, the car accident case could end up in court.