• Attorney Israel Garcia

WHOS IS AT FAULT IN A REAR-END ACCIDENT IN TEXAS?

1.) Who is at fault in a rear-end collision?

In most rear-end motor vehicle accidents, the rear driver is at fault for the accident. However, the rear driver is not always at fault in a rear-end collision. The lead driver or another vehicle could be the cause of the rear-end accident.


In Texas, determining who is at fault in a car accident is important because that determines who is liable to pay for the other drivers' damages. Liability can be shown by figuring out if a driver was negligent and what percentage of the accident was caused by the driver's negligence.

Negligence in a car accident can be shown through failure to drive with care or through violating a traffic law or rule, including:

  • Texting while driving

  • Distracted driving

  • Speeding

  • Tailgating

Different states have different determinations of negligence, making it important to seek local legal counsel if you were injured in San Antonio, Texas. Injured plaintiffs can recover compensation for their injuries through filing a personal injury lawsuit. Drivers and passengers injured in a rear-end accident can seek compensatory damages after an accident. These damages can include:

  • Car repair costs / Car replacement costs (if a total loss) / Car Rental Expenses

  • Medical bills (Past, Ongoing, Future)

  • Lost wages (Past, Ongoing, Future)

  • Lost earnings (Past, Ongoing, Future)

  • Pain and suffering (Past, Ongoing, Future)

  • Physical Impairment (Past, Ongoing, Future)

  • Disfigurement (Past, Ongoing, Future)

  • Physical Impairment (Past, Ongoing, Future)

  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life (Past, Ongoing, Future)

  • Loss of consortium damages for a spouse or partner

  • Survivor damages for wrongful death.

2. Is fault in a rear-end collision automatic?

Fault in a rear-end automobile accident is not automatic. While the rear driver is often at fault for following too closely or distracted driving, the lead driver can also be at fault or share a percentage of the fault (partially responsible). For example, another vehicle may have been a contributing cause of a rear-end collision (i.e., like a vehicle pulling out of a gas station driveway exit when unsafe causing a three-car pile-up).


Fault in most car accidents is determined by negligence. Under negligence laws, the negligent party is liable for any injuries and damages caused to another. In a rear-end traffic collision, a negligent driver is liable to any injured drivers or passengers.


In order to recover damages after an injury accident, the injury victims generally need to show the defendant was negligent. The elements for negligence require showing:

  1. The defendant owed the victim a duty of care.

  2. The defendant breached that duty of care through negligence (failed to use ordinary care or was careless).

  3. The defendant's negligence was a proximate cause of the victim's injuries or death.

When driving, the basic standard of care for drivers includes:

  • Use reasonable care when driving.

  • Keep a careful lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles.

  • Control (use ordinary or reasonable care) the speed and movement of the vehicle.

Failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence.


3. When is the lead driver at fault in a rear-end accident?

Most rear-end accidents are caused by the rear driver following too closely for the road conditions, not leaving enough room to stop safely, or driver inattention. However, the lead driver can be at fault in a rear-end accident. If the lead driver is not using reasonable care when driving, the lead driver could be liable for any damages.


The lead driver could be at fault in a rear-end accident through negligent or reckless driving, including:

  • Pulling out in front of another car (when unsafe)

  • Braking suddenly (without good reason or cause)

  • Reversing into a car

  • Road rage (and slamming on brakes)

  • Drunk driving

  • Driving with broken brake lights

  • Driving with headlights off at night (while dark outside)


4. Who is at fault if a driver in front breaks suddenly?

A common cause of rear-end accidents involves a driver breaking suddenly, causing the rear driver to hit the vehicle ahead. A driver in the rear may blame the front driver for breaking suddenly; however, the rear driver may still be at fault for the accident.

Texas vehicle laws require drivers to leave enough space for cars in front to be able to stop if necessary. 


A safe following distance depends on the road conditions at the time. For example, a driver may need to adjust the following distance based on:

  • Nighttime driving

  • Wet road conditions

  • Heavier vehicle weight

  • Stop-and-go traffic

  • Loose gravel

  • Soft brakes

  • Limited visibility ahead due to weather conditions (fog) or road conditions (a bend or curve in the road)

In addition to following too close, rear-end collisions are also caused by distracted drivers. A rear driver may claim the lead-driver braked suddenly; however, in reality, the rear driver was not paying attention to the road or vehicles at the time. When the driver looks up, they may suddenly realize the car in front has slowed or stopped.


Distracted Driving and Sudden Braking

Mobile phones are increasingly the cause of distracted driving. However, distracted driving can involve anything that takes the driver's attention away from their surroundings, including:

  • Changing the radio

  • Looking at maps

  • Mapping directions

  • Putting on makeup or shaving

  • Eating while driving

  • Reading the newspaper

  • Watching a video

  • Adjusting the seat or steering wheel

  • Lighting a cigarette

  • Other passengers in the vehicle (including small children)

  • Pets in the vehicle

If the rear driver was not keeping a safe following distance, speeding, or driving while distracted, the rear driver may be considered negligent. However, the driver in the front could have been driving negligently and caused the accident, or at least partially caused the accident. A lead driver may be liable for causing a rear-end collision where the driver:

  • Slammed on the brakes recklessly because of road rage.

  • Driving with broken brake lights

  • Driving with headlights off at night (while dark outside)


5. Who is at fault if a driver pulls out in front suddenly and gets hit?

Fault when a driver suddenly pulls out in front of another car and gets hit can be complicated. The driver who pulls out suddenly or the driver who fails to stop in time could both be at fault for the accident.7 This depends on the specific facts of the accident, including:

  • Vehicle speed

  • Road conditions

  • Failing to signal for turns and lane changes

  • Traffic signals

  • Lane markings

  • Other factors

If the rear driver is not driving cautiously, including speeding, the rear driver may be liable for the accident. If the other driver pulls into moving traffic across multiple lanes while unsafe, without signaling, or crosses a solid yellow line, this driver could be liable or responsible for the accident.


Left Turns, U-Turns, and Right-of-Way

Another cause of a rear-end collision could be another driver turning left in front of oncoming traffic or making an illegal U-turn.  “Right-of-Way” laws, the driver intending to turn left or complete a U-turn shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction until the turn can be made with reasonable safety.


A driver who is attempting to make a left turn must make sure no oncoming vehicles are close enough to be considered a hazard before crossing traffic, including making a U-turn. If a driver makes a left turn without yielding to oncoming traffic and is hit, the turning driver may be negligent and could be liable for the damages and injuries.


6. Multiple Vehicle Rear-End Accidents

Many rear-end accidents involve multiple cars. This includes “chain reaction” rear-end collisions where the vehicle in the rear hits a car which then hits the car in front, and so on. In multi-vehicle accidents, the cars that initially got into the accident are often blamed for the damage. A common insurance company defense and outright lie is that the vehicles in front of the rear vehicle crashed before the rear vehicle hit them.


Fault in a rear-end accident is not always clear, especially when multiple parties are involved. The parties involved may have conflicting versions of what occurred and who was to blame. Negligence and liability is often a decision that is made by a jury in a motor vehicle accident lawsuit.



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