Liability for Rear-End Collisions

You’re sitting at a red light or slowing down to make a turn when crash! The car behind you suddenly smashes into the end of your car. Your car jolts forward, your airbags deploy, and you’re whipped slightly back against your seat.

What happened is clear: you’ve been in a rear-end collision! But what are you supposed to do next?

What is a Rear End Collision?

The definition of a rear-end collision is relatively simple. It occurs when one vehicle crashes into the vehicle in front of it. Distracted driving is a major cause of rear-end collisions, as a driver who is texting, applying makeup, listening to loud music, or doing any other distracting activity might not have time to react to a slowed vehicle or obstacle in front of them. For the same reasons, drunk and fatigued driving are also common culprits of rear-end collisions. Other common causes include:

  • Heavy traffic
  • Road rage behavior, like tailgating
  • Poor visibility
  • Bad weather conditions
  • Sudden obstacles in the road, like a pedestrian darting into traffic
  • Speeding

Rear-end collisions usually occur when the leading vehicle slows down, whether they coming to a legal stop at a light, preparing to make a turn, or navigating around an object in the road.

Whiplash and Other Injuries

In most cases, rear-end accidents are not as deadly as other types of car accidents, like head-on collisions. This does not mean, however, that they are painless accidents. Rear-end collisions can still lead to a wide range of injuries:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts and bruises
  • Mouth injuries
  • Eye injuries, like retinal detachment

The most commonly seen injury after a rear-end collision is whiplash. Whiplash occurs when soft tissues in the neck are damaged as a result of a sudden whip-like motion. When someone is rear-ended, they may be knocked forward and then fall back, leading to a sudden extension of their neck. Whiplash can be the result of any kind of car accident, but because of the sudden force from behind during a rear-end collision, it is most frequently seen in these types of accidents.

Who Is At Fault?

In the vast majority of rear-end accidents, the driver who hit the other vehicle is at-fault. Since the leading driver was obeying the rules of the road by slowing down when necessary, the driver behind them was likely not following the law or not paying attention. It is also very easy to tell what happened based on evidence: if Car A has damaged to their bumper and Car B has damaged to their hood, it’s very clear that Car B hit Car A from behind.

However, there are some situations where the following car might not be fully at fault. For example, if Car A slowed down to the negligent breaking of Car C in front of them, causing car B to hit Car A, then Car C might also be partially at fault for the accident. Similarly, if Car A was displaying negligent behavior, like break checking or not using their turn signal, the car behind them might not be totally at fault for rear-ending them.

In cases like these, it is called comparative negligence. For example, one driver might be 20% liable for the accident and the other driver is 80% liable. This limits the amount of damages that a driver can collect, since they are also partially at fault for the accident.

While rear-end collisions might seem simple, they can be anything but! After any kind of car accident, even if there are only minor injuries, it is still important to know your legal options.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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