Yes. A common belief about rear-end car accidents is that the back driver is always at fault. Typically, this idea holds true — the driver in back is the responsible party in the vast majority of rear-end collisions. And while this idea holds true in the vast majority of rear-end collisions, the circumstances of every car accident are different, and in certain situations- a driver who was rear-ended can be partially or entirely at fault. This can pose a unique challenge in Virginia, where being even one percent responsible for a crash can keep a driver from recovering damages. Below, we discuss Virginia’s unique laws and describe common scenarios in which a rear-ended driver could bear liability.
Virginia’s Contributory Negligence Law
When more than one driver is at fault in a car accident, most states use something called a comparative negligence law. Under this system, a driver who is 20 percent responsible for a collision can still sue the other driver for damages. If the driver wins compensation, though, his fault will reduce his settlement by 20 percent. Virginia uses a different law, called a contributory negligence law. It is much less forgiving of drivers who bear a small percentage of liability for a crash. Under Virginia’s law, if a driver is even one percent responsible for an accident, he cannot recover any compensation from the other driver. The distinction between these laws often comes into play in rear-end collisions. That is because, in Virginia and other contributory negligence states, the back driver — generally the clear at-fault party — only has to prove that the front driver shoulders a tiny portion of the responsibility. If the driver can do this successfully, they can escape financial responsibility for the other driver’s injuries or property damage.
Scenarios in Which a Rear-Ended Driver Can Be At-Fault
It seems like it should be the following driver’s responsibility to keep from hitting the car in front of them. And in most cases, it is. But in a few scenarios, the driver in front might be partly or wholly at fault. For instance:
• The driver in front makes an abrupt and unnecessary stop, making it difficult for the trailing driver to avoid a collision even if keeping a safe following distance.
• The front driver makes a sudden lane change in front of the following driver and then hits the brakes without warning.
• The driver who was rear-ended is operating a vehicle that has faulty brake lights, impairing the driver in back’s ability to detect a sudden stop.
• The driver of the rear-ended vehicle has a flat tire or other breakdown but fails to pull to the side of the road or activate his hazard lights.
The legal team at Tronfeld West & Durrett has helped drivers in rear-end collisions win
compensation whether they were the driver in front, or the driver in back. For a free
consultation, accident victims can call 804-358-6741 today.