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Rear-end collision lawsuit - Fault and damages

Rear drivers in a rear-end collision is not always at blame for the accident. The driver at fault in a rear-end accident is not automatically determined and in some cases the lead driver or another vehicle will be held liable for the injured driver's damages. 

The lead driver can be held liable in a rear-end accident if the lead driver is negligent or driving recklessly, including: 

  • Reversing into the rear car;
  • Driving while drunk;
  • Intentionally trying to cause an accident; or
  • Driving with broken brake lights.

The driver who is deemed liable for causing the accident may be liable to the other driver and passengers for damages in a personal injury lawsuit. 

Should you have any more questions after reading this article, we invite you to contact us at Illinois Personal Injury Law Group. 

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

In the majority of rear-end collisions, the rear driver will be at fault for the accident. However, the rear-end accident is not always the rear driver's fault. The cause of the accident could be the lead driver or another vehicle. 

Determining liability in a car accident is important because that will determine who will be liable for the other driver's damages. To figure out who is liable, you have to show that the other driver was negligent and what percentage of the accident was caused by the driver's negligence. 

Proving negligence in a car accident can be demonstrated though evidence showing a failure to drive with care or through violating a traffic law or rule, including:

  • Texting while driving,
  • Distracted driving (such as driving with headphones or violating a traffic code)
  • Speeding, or
  • Following too closely.

Injured plaintiffs can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries. Driver's and passengers who are injured in a rear-end collision can seek compensatory damages after an accident. These damages can include the following:

  • Medical bills,
  • Lost wages,
  • Lost earnings,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Car repair costs,
  • Loss of consortium, and
  • Survival damages for wrongful death

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

Fault in a rear-end collision is not automatic. However, the rear driver often found at fault for following too closely or distracted driving. In some cases, the lead driver can be at fault for causing the accident. 

Moreover, another vehicle, a pedestrian, or even road conditions may have been a contributing cause of a rear-end collision. 

The negligent driver will be determined to be the cause of the accident. Under negligence laws, the party found to be negligent will be held liable for any injuries and damages caused to another. 

The negligent driver found liable for the rear-end traffic collision is liable to any injured driver or passengers. 

To be able to recover damages following an injury accident, the injury victims must show the defendant was negligent. Negligence law requires the showing of the following elements:

  •  The defendant owed the victim a duty of care;
  • Through the defendant's negligence, he breached this duty of care;
  • The defendant's negligence was a proximate cause in the victim's injuries or death.

The basic duty of care drivers are responsible for includes:

  • Using reasonable care while driving;
  • Keeping an eye out for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles, and 
  • Keeping control of the movement and speed of the vehicle. 

Failing to use reasonable care when driving a vehicle is negligence. 

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

In almost all cases, the rear driver is at fault for causing a rear-end collision for following too closely for conditions and not leaving enough room to stop safely. 

On the other hand, in some rare instances the lead driver can be at fault for causing the car accident. If the lead driver fails to use reasonable care while driving, the lead driver will be responsible for any damages.

The lead driver could be deemed liable in a rear-end accident through negligence or reckless driving, including:

  • Suddenly pulling out in front of another car;
  • Braking suddenly; 
  • Reversing into a car;
  • Road rage;
  • Intentionally trying to get in an accident;
  • Drunk driving; or
  • Driving with broken brake lights.

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

One of the most common causes of rear-end accidents is when a driver breaks suddenly, causing the rear driver to hit the vehicle ahead. The rear driver may try to put the blame on the front driver for braking suddenly, however, the rear driver may still be liable for the accident. 

Illinois vehicle laws require that rear drivers leave enough room for cars in front of them to be able to stop if necessary. There is not a specific safe distance to follow another driver. 

The road conditions will determine the safe following distance at the time. For example, a driver may may be required to adjust their safe traveling distance based on:

  • Driving at night
  • Wet road conditions
  • Heavy vehicle weight
  • Stop-and-go travel
  • Gravel roads
  • Soft brakes

Distracted drivers and following too close cause the majority of rear-end collisions. 

The rear driver may try to place blame on the lead driver by accusing them of braking too suddenly, and the lead driver will accuse the rear driver of not paying attention to the road. Rear drivers may realize suddenly that the car in front has slowed or stopped suddenly after looking up. 

Distracted Driving and Sudden Braking

Cell phones have been increasingly the lead cause of distracted driving. However, distracted driving can be anything that takes the driver's attention away from their surroundings, including:

  • Switching the radio;
  • Looking at maps;
  • Mapping directions;
  • Shaving or putting on makeup;
  • eating while driving;
  • Reading the newspaper;
  • Watching a video;
  • Adjusting the steering wheel or the seat; or
  • Lighting a cigarette.

The rear driver will be considered negligent if not keeping a safe following distance, speeding, or driving while distracted. However, the front driver can be considered to have caused the accident or partially responsible for the accident if found to be negligent. 

A lead driver could be considered liable for causing a rear-end collision where the driver:

  • Operated his vehicle with a broken brake lights;
  • Intentionally slamming on the brakes to try and get hit for insurance fraud; or
  • Slammed on the brakes recklessly due to road rage. 

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

Determining fault when a driver pulls out in front of a driver can be complicated. The driver who pulled out into traffic could be at fault, and the driver who failed to stop in time could also be at fault. 

The at fault driver will be determined based on the specific facts of the case, including:

  • The speed of the vehicle,
  • Road conditions,
  • Failing to signal for turns and lane changes,
  • Traffic signals,
  • Lane markings, and 
  • Other factors.

If the rear driver is driving recklessly, speeding, or distracted, the rear driver will be liable for the accident. If the other driver suddenly, without signaling, pulls out into traffic across multiple lanes, the driver who is rear-ended could be at fault for the accident. 

Left Turns, U-Turn, and Right-of-way

Another cause for rear-end accidents could be another driver turning left suddenly in front of oncoming traffic, or making an illegal U-turn. If a driver intends to make a left turn or a U-turn, it is their responsibility to yield the right-of-way to oncoming vehicles approaching from the opposite direction until the turn can be made safely. 

If a driver wants to make a left turn or a U-turn, the driver must make sure no oncoming vehicles are close enough to be considered hazardous. If a driver makes a left turn without yielding and is hit by another vehicle, the driver turning may be held liable for damages and injuries. 

6. Multiple Vehicle Rear-End Accidents

Many of the rear-end accidents involve multiple vehicles. The most famous are "chain reaction" rear-end collisions when the rear vehicle hits the car in front, and so on. 

In multi-vehicle accidents the vehicle that initiated the accident is usually at fault for the damages. However, more than one driver could be liable for the multi-car rear-end accidents. 

In some cases, neither driver involved in a rear-end accident will be at fault. A rear-end collision could be caused by:

  • Another reckless driver;
  • Malfunctioning brakes;
  • Hazardous road conditions;
  • Animals on the road way; or
  • Cyclists or pedestrians. 

Determine fault in a rear-end accident can be difficult, especially when multiple vehicles are involved. The different drivers will likely have conflicting stories on what actually occurred and who is to blame. 

Determining negligence and liability in a lawsuit will be made by a judge or jury in a motor vehicle accident personal injury lawsuit. 

7. Damages in a Rear-End Collision Lawsuit

When calculating damages in a rear-end accident, you can add any loss or costs associated with the accident. Which includes economic and non economic compensatory damages. Compensatory damages in a car accident can include:

  • Medical bills,

  • Physical or occupational therapy,

  • Emergency room treatment,

  • Medical supplies,

  • Prescriptions,

  • Lost earning capacity,

  • Lost wages,

  • Loss of consortium,

  • Disfigurement and scarring, and

  • Pain and suffering.

If the driver's conduct is reckless or criminal, such as a DUI, the plaintiff can claim punitive damages. 

Death of a Loved One in a Rear-End Collision

If someone loses their spouse of child in a rear-end collision, the surviving loved one may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit under Illinois law. 

The surviving spouse or domestic partner may be able to recover damages when the spouse of domestic partner died because of the wrongful conduct of another. 

Damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit can include burial expenses, lost financial earnings the victim would have earned, and compensation for the loss of companionship, affection, and support. 

8. Can I file a personal injury lawsuit if I was partly to blame for the accident?

Under Illinois law, which is a comparative fault state, you will be able to recover damages even if the accident was partly your fault. The fault will be divided between all the parties involved in the accident. 

The injured party involved in a rear-end accident will be able to collect damages based on the level of fault of the other driver. 

For example, if 2 drivers are involved in a rear-end accident, the question of liability will be determined by a judge or jury in a personal injury lawsuit. 

If the judge or jury finds that driver A is 30% at fault and driver B is 70% at fault, then driver A could recover 70% of their damages from driver B, based on comparative fault. 

9. Do I need a lawyer after a rear-end collision if it wasn't my fault?

Many drivers believe that letting the insurance company handle their claim on their own is in their best interest. 

The role of the insurance adjuster and who he works for is to reduce your payment, saving the insurance company money, and paying out as little as possible. 

The insurance company will attempt to deny your claim as a tactic to frustrate you, delay the resolution so the injured driver will eventually give up and accept whatever settlement is offered. 

Never accept the insurance company's low-ball settlement offer, talk with an Illinois Personal Injury Lawyer. 

Experienced rear-end collision accident injury attorneys know the insurance company's dirty tactics and tricks and will fight back. 

Our network of caring Illinois personal injury lawyers, car accident investigators, and medical experts will uncover all the evidence necessary in your case so that you can get the full compensation you are owed after an accident. 

10. What should I do if I was rear-ended by an uninsured driver?

Your insurance company should offer you uninsured and underinsured insurance coverage that will pay for damages when the other driver is at fault for the accident, but either:

  • Has no automobile insurance, or
  • The other driver's insurance policy does not have enough coverage to pay for the injured party's damages.

Insurance companies must offer uninsured and underinsured coverage to their customers but drivers are not required to purchase it. 

Even when the driver has insurance, the liability coverage limits may not be enough to cover the damages in a serious rear-end collision. 

If a driver is involved in a serious rear-end accident, he or she may file a claim under his or her uninsured/underinsured policy to cover damages in excess of the other driver's coverage. 

If a driver fails to purchase uninsured or underinsured coverage, they may be limited in the kind of damages they can recover. 

However, the injured party can file a personal injury claim against the at fault party. Unfortunately, if the other driver does not have auto insurance, they likely do not have a lot of financial assets that would cover the damages after an accident. 

Call us for help...

For questions or guidance about rear-end traffic accident lawsuits or if you want to discuss your case with one of our skilled Illinois car accident attorneys, please contact us at Illinois Personal Injury Lawyers Group. 

We have local law offices in Chicago, Worth, and can meet with you throughout the state of Illinois in a city near you. 



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