car accidents

How To Determine Fault In A Rear-End Collision

Be informed about your case and learn how fault is determined in a rear-end accident and what problems could arise.

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According to the NHTSA, Rear-end collisions are America's second most common type of traffic accident.

This information is vital to the thousands of victims of rear-end accidents as establishing fault is essential for recovering medical expenses, property damages, and other losses.

This article will reveal how fault is determined in a rear-end collision.

Presumption of Fault

Before determining how fault is defined in a rear-end accident, we should clarify the presumption surrounding rear-end collisions. In a rear-end collision, there will generally be an automatic presumption that the driver who rear-ended the vehicle is at fault.

This assumption is based on the principle that drivers should maintain a safe following distance to allow adequate time to stop suddenly or slow down.

However, this is only a presumption, and there can be exceptions, such as if the lead driver abruptly stops without warning or engages in reckless behavior like road rage.

It's also important to understand that a presumption won't hold strong in negotiations or trials.

How Liability Can Be Determined In A Rear-End Accident

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Witness Statements

A changing factor when determining fault in a rear-end car accident is whether there are witnesses. An eyewitness account can play a vital role in reconstructing the rear-end crash for a jury or the insurance company.

In addition, a witness can provide an unbiased perspective of the rear-end collision, making it hard for the opposing side to argue against.

Traffic Cameras

In urban areas like Las Vegas, there is usually an abundance of surveillance cameras lining the roads.

Obtaining footage from one of these cameras can be pivotal in determining fault, as footage can be even more potent than an eyewitness in a rear-end collision case.

It's important to note that the camera is not always a state surveillance camera; it could be a driver's dashcam or a person who happened to be recording during a rear-end car accident.

Police Report

An official police report will provide essential details about the rear-end collision, such as weather and road conditions, on-scene statements from parties, and traffic signs around the area.

A police report will serve as an authoritative source of information, which may include the officer's unbiased assessment of who the at-fault driver is.

Accident Reconstruction Experts

When a rear-end collision occurs, and the circumstances around it are complex, plus the damages are significant, an accident reconstructor may be employed to analyze the rear-end car accident.

An accident reconstructor will use various methods, backed by science and case evidence, to recreate the rear-end accident and determine important information such as speed, braking distances, and road conditions.

Vehicle Black Box Data

Most modern vehicles have event data recorders or black boxes, which record crucial information such as vehicle movement, speed, and braking.

Though black boxes provide valuable factors that assist an investigation, getting diagnostic data from a black box could cost around $20,000.

Read this article from Rislone to learn more about black boxes and to find out if your car has one.

When The Rear Driver Is At Fault

In rear-end collisions, common situations where the rear driver is at fault are:

  • Failure To Maintain Safe Following Distance - If the rear driver fails to maintain adequate space from the driver in front of them, they could be seen at fault in a rear-end collision.

  • Distracted Driving - If the driver in the rear was texting, talking on the phone, or engaging in any other activity other than driving during the rear-end collision, they could be at fault.

  • Excessive Speed - If the trailing driver is driving at high speeds, they could be unable to stop for a vehicle ahead, resulting in them crashing into the front driver.

When The Lead Driver Is At Fault

Here are a few situations where the leading car is at fault in a rear-end collision:

  • Abrupt Stops - If the lead driver makes an abrupt, uncalled-for stop without a proper warning, they may be at fault, especially if they engage in actions like brake checking.

  • Reversing Without Caution - The lead driver could be deemed responsible if they back their car without scanning the area for other drivers.

  • Broken Brake Light - Broken or malfunctioning tail lights are against the law (NRS 484D.125) and could make the lead vehicle in the event of a rear-end collision.

Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions

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Distracted Driving

Drivers who text, talk, eat, or use their GPS while driving may miss a stop sign or fail to recognize a front driver, resulting in a car accident.


Many rear-end crashes occur due to the trailing driver speeding and overestimating their break distance, resulting in a rear-end collision.


Aggressive driving actions like tailgating are an unfortunate and preventable cause of accidents.

Vehicle Malfunctions

A manufacturing defect or mechanical problem can result in the lead or tail vehicle getting into an accident.

Challenges In Determining Fault In A Rear-End Crashes

Conflicting Witness Accounts

  • Perception - If multiple witnesses are involved in your case, they could have different views of the events leading up to the accident. This could make it difficult to establish a strong case.

  • Memory - Human memory fades in and out, which can cause a witness to tell distorted facts on the accident scene.

Insufficient Evidence

  • Lack Of Video Footage - An absence of traffic camera footage could make finding the negligent driver more cumbersome and require more resources and investigation.

  • Vehicle Lacking a Black Box - Black boxes have been mandated in all new vehicles since 2014; however, that doesn't mean there are cars on the road that lack them. The absence of a black box may limit the data available to assign fault correctly.

Comparative Negligence In Nevada

Nevada follows a modified comparative negligence system, which means that all parties involved in a car accident can be assigned a percentage of fault.

The modified part is that if a party's level of fault exceeds 50%, they will be barred from compensation.

What This Rule Means In Rear-End Accidents

Nevada's modified comparative negligence systems mean that the lead and tailing driver can be at fault for a rear-end collision.

However, generally speaking, rear-end collisions usually have only one at-fault party.

Get A Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney To Represent Your Rear-End Accident Case

If you were involved in a rear-end accident, you need an experienced car accident lawyer to ensure that the case goes your way.

At The Rodney Okano Car Accident Lawyer Law Firm, we have over 20 years of experience in personal injury law, have represented thousands of clients, and maintain a five-star rating.

Get a free consultation today by calling (702) 566-3600.

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