It’s a question that can stump even the most experienced of motorists — who is at fault in a rear-end collision? Whether you are driving in Las Vegas, somewhere else in Nevada, or in another state across the USA, a rear-end collision is a serious inconvenience. It can result in severe damage to one or both vehicles, and it has been linked to painful and even debilitating injuries, particularly neck and spinal injuries such as whiplash.
What’s more, it can result in a confusing situation. Some may say the driver of the car that rear-ended the other is always at fault. They believe you should always leave ample room between your vehicle and the one in front to allow you to come to a halt without hitting the car in front of you. Others believe differently — they might argue that it’s the responsibility of all drivers to avoid slamming on their brakes or stopping abruptly, putting others in danger.
So who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong? Let’s take a look at who is really at fault in the event of a rear-end collision in Las Vegas.
Determining Who Is at Fault
In many cases, it’s the rear driver who is at fault. When driving out on the road, it’s important to remain attentive and give yourself lots of time and space to avoid colliding with a vehicle in front of you. Basically, it almost doesn’t matter what the driver in front does — the driver at the rear should be able to react in time to avoid the danger or come to a safe stop.
Almost — this is an important word here. There will be cases in which it was the driver at the front who is to blame. If they acted inappropriately and did something dangerous, it might not be reasonable to assume the driver at the rear would be able to do anything about it. In these cases, the driver at the front is most likely at fault.
But blame is not always black and white. Some of the blame may be shared between the two drivers, or there may even be a third party involved who takes some or even all of the blame themselves. Rear-end collisions can be complex, which is why they are viewed on a case-by-case basis.
Situations in Which the Rear Driver May Take Responsibility
Let’s start with the most obvious occurrence — a rear-end collision that was caused by the driver at the rear. What might lead to this situation, and what might the scenario look like? Here are a few reasons why the rear driver might be the guilty party.
- They were driving too close to the vehicle in front. As mentioned, you do need to give yourself time and space to respond in the event of a sudden obstruction. You should also take into account the road and weather conditions as you gauge how much space to leave between you and the car in front.
- They did not have their full attention on the road. If there were any distraction, such as the driver answering the phone or fiddling with the stereo system, this may put the blame on the driver at the rear. It’s up to all drivers to remain focused on driving their vehicle.
- They were drunk or drug-driving. Driving under the influence is a crime in the State of Nevada. If the driver at the rear has mind-altering substances or is over the drink-drive limit, they will often be found guilty.
- They were driving in an angry or aggressive manner: Road rage causes drivers to exhibit dangerous behaviors, including driving too quickly or driving too close to other vehicles.
- They were driving in excess of the local speed limit. Drivers need to pay particular attention to the speed limit in Nevada. If the rear driver was only one mile above the speed limit, they may be found to be at fault if they collide with another vehicle in front of them.
- They were driving a vehicle that has been neglected or has a known brake issue. It is up to the driver to make sure that their vehicle is roadworthy, and they could be held responsible if it represents a danger to other road users.
Situations in Which the Front Driver May Take Responsibility
Of course, it’s not always as simple as just blaming the driver at the rear. There are many other factors to take into account, and this may mean that the front driver was largely or wholly responsible for a car colliding with them from behind. Let’s take a look at a few situations when this might be the case.
- They suddenly changed lanes or entered the roadway. Drivers have to be careful when they operate on Nevada’s roadways, and they need to give way at all relevant junctions and show their turn signals when they are changing lanes or executing a turn. Failure to do so may contribute to an accident.
- They cut off the driver at the rear. Any movement that leaves the driver of the car in front too close to the car behind may be considered “cutting off.” In this situation, it might not be reasonable to expect the driver of the rear vehicle to stop in time.
- They parked the car or stopped the vehicle in an inappropriate place. Just like right across the United States, stopping and parking are restricted to designated locations on the roadways of Nevada. Obstructing traffic with an automobile could result in a collision.
- They were not displaying the proper hazard warning signals. If the driver has to come to a stop because of a fault with their vehicle, they must display the appropriate hazard warning lights to let other drivers know they are there.
- They performed the wrong action while operating their vehicle. Hitting the brake rather than the accelerator pedal or putting the car in reverse rather than in a forward gear can cause a collision. This may put the driver of the car in the front at fault.
- They were driving a neglected car or one with known defects. As mentioned above, all drivers need to make sure their vehicles are safe and roadworthy. If there is a problem with the vehicle that renders it unsafe, or if an important component like a brake light is faulty, this can be a contributing factor to a rear-end collision.
- They brought the car to a halt without just cause to do so. It is not permitted to stop suddenly on some roads without a good reason for doing so. Even if the driver just brought their vehicle to a stop for a moment, this may cause the driver behind to hit them.
Situations in Which a Third Party May Take Responsibility
Determining who is at fault after a rear-end collision can be difficult, and the candidates for blame might go beyond Party A and Party B. There may be a third party in some cases, which adds to the complexity as you untangle who should take responsibility. While these cases may not be as common as those involving just the drivers of the collided vehicles, they are still worth bearing in mind. Take a look at a few of these examples below.
- There was a manufacturing error with one of the vehicles. Vehicle manufacturers need to make sure their products are safe and roadworthy, and auto producers may be responsible for any faults that resulted in an accident. The manufacturer must take steps to publicize this fault or recall the vehicle.
- There was a servicing or auto shop mistake. Drivers rely on qualified vehicle servicers and auto shops to provide safe, high-quality work. If this is not the case, the service provider may take some responsibility.
- There were problems with the road surface or other infrastructure. Dangerous road defects may make it difficult to operate vehicles. Local authorities may have questions to answer about why they have not maintained the road surface, or other pieces of infrastructure, such as stop signs and traffic lights.
- There were adverse driving conditions that were not properly mitigated. If the local authority expects adverse weather conditions, they need to take steps to mitigate this — for example, spreading salt on the roads ahead of freezing temperatures.
- There was another driver involved in the collision. The actions of another driver may cause one party to swerve into another. This may be taken into account if there were other cars in the area at the time of the road traffic collision.
- There was another road user causing a distraction. If a passenger or a pedestrian was creating a distraction, this may also be taken into account, and this road user may need to take responsibility in some cases.
- There were malicious actions taking place at the time of the collision. Acting aggressively or following another driver may cause them to fear for their own safety and, therefore, to act irrationally. In some rare cases, this may be a contributing factor to a collision.
Untangling Partial Blame
In many cases, there will not be an easily identifiable single cause, or a single responsible party. Instead, there may be several different factors that converge to cause an accident, or the actions of both parties may result in a collision. This makes life difficult for legal teams who then have to decide which parties shoulder some of the blame, and how much. Let’s examine a couple of example scenarios.
The rear driver receives a message on their cellphone and briefly looks away from the road to look at it. Meanwhile, the driver in front sees a child who looks like they might run into the path of her car, so she brakes sharply. The rear driver does not have time to stop, and a collision occurs between the two vehicles.
In this scenario, the rear driver has not been attentive to the road, and they may well be found to be at fault as a result. While the driver in the front vehicle did stop quickly, they had justifiable cause to do so, as the driver at the rear should have been paying attention. Provided that the brake lights were working as they should be on the front driver’s car, it is probably that the rear driver will take most of the blame.
A driver is unsure which turn to take. He approaches the first junction and makes a move to turn, but then he decides against it, cutting back in front of the driver behind him. The driver in the rear car notices this erratic behavior and decides to keep a safe distance. At the next junction, the driver of the car in front does the same thing but cuts back in front of the rear driver even more suddenly. The driver in the rear vehicle had kept a safe distance, but there is a problem with her brakes and she does not stop in time, resulting in a collision.
In this situation, the driver of the car in front will likely take some of the blame, as he is not exiting the roadway with due care and attention and is not considering other road users. The driver in the rear vehicle does show care and attention by keeping her distance, but she may find herself shouldering some of the legal responsibility as her brakes have not been well-maintained. However, if the faulty brakes were the result of a manufacturer defect or a faulty service, then a third party may also be found to be at fault.
Involved in a Rear-End Collision? Call Upon Bay Law Personal Injury
If you are involved in a rear-end collision in Las Vegas, Nevada, and you need legal support and guidance, our team can help you understand your options and navigate the sometimes confusing legal landscape following an accident. Reach out to Bay Law today to discover more.