By: Whalen Hersh
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Negligence in Rear-End Car Accidents – Who’s at Fault?
Most of the time, the rear driver will be the person at fault in causing a rear-end accident. In Colorado, the rear driver in a rear-end accident is presumed negligent. But not all rear-end collisions implicate the negligence of the rear driver. The presumption of negligence can be overcome by more closely examining the exact circumstances of the accident.
When discussing auto accidents, it is important to discuss what the term “negligence” means. Generally, negligence is any behavior that falls short of how a reasonably careful person would have acted under similar circumstances. Put another way in the context of operating an automobile, when a person drives a vehicle in a way that deviates from how an otherwise careful person would have driven a vehicle under the same or similar circumstances, we can say that they have driven negligently.
Proving negligence in a Colorado car accident lawsuit requires the plaintiff to prove four “elements.” The first element, duty, and the second element, breach, are described in the above paragraph: a driver owes a duty to act in a reasonably careful manner but has breached that duty by failing to act in a reasonably careful manner. The third element of a Colorado negligence claim is causation. This requires the plaintiff to demonstrate a direct link between the defendant’s negligent conduct and any injuries, damages, or losses that the plaintiff has incurred. The fourth and final element falls under the label of damages. In essence, the plaintiff must also submit evidence showing they have been harmed in a way that can be compensated for through a monetary award.
With the above information in mind, let’s turn to the sometimes-difficult task of determining negligence in a rear-end car crash. The general presumption that the rear driver is at fault is relatively simple to apply in certain factual scenarios. For example, say a driver is rear-ended while sitting at a red light or at a stop sign. In that case, the presumption that the driver of the moving vehicle acted negligently would be difficult to overcome. That driver could also be cited for speeding, distracted driving, drunk driving, or any other infraction that could add to the presumption of liability. The negligent driver will be presumed to have breached their duty to other drivers, which negligence caused injuries, losses, and damages to another.
Some other rear-end car crashes, however, aren’t so straightforward. In these, the rear driver may be able to rebut, or cast doubt on, the presumption by introducing evidence of the other driver’s own negligent behavior. Perhaps the front driver suddenly changed lanes without signaling or had dead brake lights that made their vehicle difficult to see in low light. Or the driver ahead suddenly slammed on their brakes for no reason (or as a “road-rage” maneuver). In those circumstances, the presumption of negligence may be overcome.
A critical part of establishing negligence in a rear-end car crash is amassing and interpreting all the available evidence to determine what likely happened. This evidence can take the form of witness statements, police reports, photos, video recordings, skid marks on the road, and the testimony of expert accident reconstruction experts. If you’ve been injured in a rear-end accident, an experienced auto accident attorney can help gather and interpret the evidence and help you prove your case.
Contact Whalen Hersh
Being involved in a rear-end car crash can be a scary experience no matter which car you were in. Regardless of how the accident happened, you are strongly encouraged to begin exploring your legal rights and options by speaking with one of the experienced Colorado injury lawyers at Whalen Hersh. Our lawyers work collaboratively to make sure that each Whalen Hersh client is provided the support they need at every step of the legal process. This includes helping them obtain medical treatment for their injuries and vigorously advocating for them in all aspects of settlement negotiation and, if necessary, courtroom litigation.
If you’ve been hurt in a rear-end car crash or have experienced any other type of personal injury, contact Whalen Hersh today and tell us about your case. You may either submit this online form or call our Colorado personal injury law firm in Denver at (720) 307-2666 or in Colorado Springs at (719) 644-7000.