Determining Fault in a Rear-End Auto Collision

July 1, 2020

The increase in the number of drivers on the road has led to an increase in the number of car accident claims. This has made car accidents the most common type of insurance claims. The most common causes of car accidents include distractions, speed, fatigue, intoxication, making unsafe turns, running red lights, and general irresponsibility and disregard for traffic laws. One common type of accident caused by negligent drivers is the rear-end collision.

If you have been injured in such an accident, contact a car wreck attorney in Boston as soon as possible.

What Causes Rear-End Collisions?

A rear-end collision happens when another vehicle hits you from behind. For instance, if you are stopped at a red light, inching along in heavy traffic, or when preparing to turn and another vehicle strikes you from behind, that is a rear-end collision. These types of accidents are commonly caused by:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving, such as using a cell phone
  • Tailgating
  • Driver inattention
  • Driving while impaired
  • Fatigue

While the tailing driver is usually presumed to be responsible in a rear-end collision, you will have to prove that the driver is at-fault for the accident to get compensation. Keep in mind that to recover damages you have to prove liability.

Proving Liability in a Rear-End Collision

If you are hurt in a car accident, you are eligible for different types of compensation. However, to recover damages from the party responsible for the accident, you have to prove that the accident was caused by the other party’s negligence.

The process of proving negligence requires that you show that the defendant owed you a duty of care (a duty to conduct himself or herself like a reasonable person would under similar circumstances), that the other driver breached the duty of care by acting in a way that is not considered rational or reasonable (speeding, drinking while driving, following too closely and so on), and that the breach caused you to sustain injuries.

Also, you will have to show the extent of the damages suffered because of the accident. Proving that the defendant owed you a duty of care is implied in car accident claims because, in Massachusetts, all drivers on the roads have a duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure his or her safety and the safety of other road users.

Exercising reasonable care includes obeying traffic rules, driving sober, maintaining a safe distance, and driving cautiously depending on the driving conditions. The tail driver is usually at fault in causing a rear-end collision because most of the collisions are caused by a tail driver’s negligence such as following too closely or speeding.

When Can I Be Considered Partially At-fault for a Rear-End Collision?

Although fault in a rear-end collision is mostly assigned to the rear driver, there are cases where the front driver can be held responsible or partially responsible for the accident. This can happen if the front driver’s vehicle had broken rear brake lights or taillights, making it hard for the rear driver to know that the vehicle in front has stopped.

The front driver may also be considered at fault for a rear-end collision if he or she was driving at a slow speed that is considered unsafe. In some cases, fault is assigned to neither the front driver nor the rear driver. This can happen if the accident was caused by poor weather conditions, a defect in the road, or the actions of another driver.

In such cases, it is a good idea for you to file a third-party claim (a claim which doesn’t involve either driver). Police reports, witness statements, video footage, and physical evidence can be used to determine fault in a rear-end collision.

Massachusetts Contributory Negligence Laws

If the rear driver who hit you from behind is not fully responsible for the rear-end collision, your claim might be subject to Massachusetts contributory negligence laws. These laws allow the plaintiff to receive compensation as long as he or she is less than 50% at fault for the accident.

If you are more than 50% at-fault for the accident, you are barred from receiving compensation. If you are less than 50% at fault but more than zero percent at-fault, the amount you will get will be diminished by your percentage of fault. For instance, if you are held 40% responsible for the rear-end collision and you would like to seek damages of 50,000 dollars, you will only receive 60% of the $50,000.

Damages Available in a Rear-End Collision Claim

Soft tissue injuries (those that cause tearing or stretching of a muscle, tendon, tissue or ligament) are the most common injuries in a rear-end collision. These injuries tend to affect the neck and the back mainly due to the forces of accelerating and decelerating associated with rear-end collisions. Upon rear impact, the neck and back are forced backward and then violently thrust forward.

This can cause several types of injuries including herniated disc and whiplash. Head trauma can occur especially if the victim did not wear a seatbelt when the accident occurred or if an object in the car violently hit the victim’s skull. These injuries can take longer to heal and require significant medical intervention. In some cases, the victim will live with the injuries for the rest of their life.

The following damage types available in a Massachusetts car accident claim will help you pay for your injuries and other harm you suffered after a rear-end collision:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

It is very important for you to demonstrate the severity of your injuries after a rear-end collision as it will help you get the compensation you deserve. An experienced car accident attorney knows how to gather the medical evidence and expert testimony that will help you demonstrate the severity of your injuries.

If the car accident resulted in the loss of function or severe disability, your spouse can file a claim for loss of consortium. Punitive damages are usually paid based on the gross negligence of the defendant and are only awarded in Massachusetts in cases where an accident results in death.

Hire a Reputable Boston Car Accident Attorney

Determining fault in a rear-end collision is not as easy as it seems. That’s why you need the best legal representation to help you determine fault. If you are looking for a good car accident law firm in Boston that will help you get the compensation you deserve, contact the Boston car accident attorneys at Michael Kelly today.

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Michael D. Kelly has a diverse background that provides a breadth of legal knowledge that he draws upon in serving his clients. Kelly compiled an excellent academic record during his three years at New England Law in Boston.