Can a driver hit in a rear-end collision be liable for the accident?

The driver who was hit in a rear-end collision usually isn’t liable for causing the accident. In most cases it is the person who struck the other car from behind. That’s because drivers are expected not to follow too closely so they have enough space to safely slow down or stop if necessary. But there could be exceptions where the person who was hit from behind is at fault.

Circumstances where the driver who was rear-ended could be liable:

  • Lights on the vehicle are out. If the person who was struck from the rear doesn’t have working lights—such as the tail lights or brake lights—it could be considered a cause or contributing factor in the accident. This would be especially true if it was dark outside, as the person driving behind the vehicle would not be aware the vehicle was going to stop or slow down.
  • Driver cuts off the other vehicle. Another circumstance in which the driver who was hit from the rear could be liable is when he/she cuts someone off and immediately stops, not allowing the other driver enough time to stop and/or create space between the car in front. This may be especially dangerous if the driver who pulls ahead of the other driver doesn’t signal.
  • Improper merging. Similarly, when merging into traffic, it’s important to maintain a sufficient speed and do so when safe. Drivers who merge in front of another vehicle and then suddenly slow down could be liable if struck from behind. For example, a driver merging onto the I-70 in Denver recklessly cuts in front of another vehicle and then slams on the brakes. This driver may be liable if it’s deemed he or she unsafely merged.
  • Driver reverses vehicle. If the driver puts the vehicle in reverse (by mistake or intentionally) and fails to see a car behind it, this could be another scenario in which the car in front would be liable (though in this case it’s the car in front that’s doing the hitting instead of being hit).

Get Legal Advice if the Driver in Front Was at Fault for a Rear-End Collision

Because fault is almost always attributed to the person who struck from behind, it’s important to seek help from an attorney if you were in an accident and that wasn’t the case. This is especially true if someone in front of your vehicle slowed or stopped improperly and you have sustained serious injuries.

Rear-end crashes can cause whiplash and back injuries. Even though these may not be life-threatening injuries, they can still impact someone long-term. For some, healing can take several weeks or months. This could prevent the person from working. Or if the individual already had neck/back injuries, the injuries could be further exacerbated by the accident. A claim should take this into account.

Since proving it was the fault of the person in front can be challenging, many would benefit from seeking legal counsel, especially in cases of severe injuries. In some cases it could also be that both parties will have some degree of fault, which can impact ability to recover damages under Colorado’s negligence laws.

Call D.J. Banovitz at (303) 300-5060 to set up a consultation about your case. Also be sure to see our free guide, 7 Costly Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Colorado Injury Case.

D.J. Banovitz’ career has always concentrated on trial practice and he has litigated hundreds of cases. His passion and sole career focus has been to seek justice for people suffering from personal injuries as the result of someone else’s negligence. The hallmark of the Law Office of D.J. Banovitz, is the total commitment to professionalism, quality, and personalized care of your injury case. D.J. has dedicated his professional life to helping those most in need and is a proud and active member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. His experience includes volunteering for Colorado Rural Legal Services in Montrose, the Colorado Aids Project, consumer law, family law, criminal defense, and Alternative Defense Counsel for juveniles in Denver.