In general, the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is held responsible for the accident due to negligence on their behalf. This is not always the case, however, so we’ll look at a few guidelines for determining who is at fault for an accident. If you’ve been in an accident and are in need of legal representation, consult one of our car accident lawyers at Stewart Bell, PLLC, proudly serving citizens of West Virginia for over 30 years.
What Constitutes As Negligence?
Negligence is based on the premise that everyone should perform at a certain level that has everyone’s best interests in mind. When someone fails to perform at this level, they are considered to be negligent.
When trying to prove that someone was negligent in a car accident, you’ll first need to prove that a certain level of performance, or a duty, existed. This is fairly simple since a driver’s duty is to operate a vehicle with diligence and care. You must then prove that the driver failed to fulfill this duty. Drivers fail in many ways, including failing to drive a safe distance behind the car ahead of them, failing to stop in time to avoid hitting the driver in front, failing to drive the speed limit and failing to control their vehicle. Finally, you must prove that the driver’s failure to fulfill their duty directly caused the accident and that the accident caused you damages such as injuries or car damages.
Who Is At Fault In A Rear-End Accident?
The most common conclusion is that the driver who rear-ends another vehicle is at fault for the car accident because they were not following at a safe enough distance in order to stop in time. However, there are certain instances where the driver who gets rear-ended is also at fault for the accident. If the driver in front does not have functioning brake lights, slows down suddenly to turn and fails to execute the turn, reverses suddenly or experiences a flat tire or other vehicle malfunction and fails to turn on their hazard lights, they should be considered partially at fault for the accident.
Comparative Negligence and Contributory Negligence
In a situation such as the ones listed above where the driver who was rear-ended is to blame along with the rear-ending driver, both will be considered negligent to varying degrees. Most states, including West Virginia, follow rules of comparative negligence whereby the liability of each driver is split according to their degree of fault.
One kind of comparative negligence, pure comparative negligence, splits driver’s liability according to their percentage of fault. Therefore, if the driver who was rear-ended is 30% to blame for the accident and suffered $10,000 worth of damages, they are only eligible to receive $7,000 from the driver at fault since that driver is only 70% to blame for the accident.
The other kind of comparative negligence is known as modified comparative negligence and also splits the liability of each driver according to their percentage of fault, but only to a certain extent. Generally, if the driver who was rear-ended is over 50% responsible for the car accident, they are unable to receive any compensation from the other driver for their damages.
Lastly, contributory negligence is only still practiced in a few states. It dictates that if a driver is responsible in any way for an accident, they are unable to receive any amount of compensation for their damages from the other driver.
Consult An Attorney If You’ve Been In A Car Accident
Car accidents are difficult enough without having to deal with all the legal issues that may arise from the accident. Let an experienced attorney at Stewart Bell, PLLC help you through the legal aspects so you can focus on your own recovery and vehicle repairs.