California Rear-End Collisions
A rear-end collision happens in a fraction of a second. It may ruin your day – or change your life forever.
California is an at-fault state for all motor vehicle accidents, including rear-end collisions. If you have been hurt, you may deserve financial compensation. Our lawyers explain rear-end collisions and what to do if you’re a victim.
What is a rear-end collision?
A rear-end collision occurs when one vehicle hits another from behind. The vehicle in the back hits the one in the front when both vehicles are traveling in the same direction.
What is the law that applies to rear-end collisions in California?
The law that applies to most rear-end collisions in California is California Vehicle Code § 21703. It says that a driver may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent.
When determining a reasonable following distance, all drivers must consider:
- The speed of the vehicle in front of them
- Traffic conditions
- Conditions of the roadway
A driver who causes a rear-end collision will most often be cited for violating California Vehicle Code § 21703 – Following Too Closely. The law requires each driver to leave enough following distance to stop for the vehicle in front of them.
Who is at fault for a rear-end collision?
The driver in the back is usually at fault for a rear-end collision. They must be able to stop for the vehicle in front. But there are some exceptions.
What are some reasons that rear-end collisions occur?
Some common causes of rear-end collisions are:
- Misjudging the stopping distance needed for the vehicle in front
- Tailgating – following too closely
- DUI/Drunk driving
- Texting and driving, distracted driving
- Weather and road conditions
- Mechanical failures
- Medical events
- Being unfamiliar with the braking capabilities of the vehicle
Why is the driver in the back usually at fault for a rear-end collision?
The driver in the back is usually at fault for a rear-end collision because it’s their job to know what’s going on in front of them and leave enough room. It wouldn’t be practical to require the person in front to adjust their speed or driving behavior based on what the person behind them is doing.
The person in front may not impede traffic. Impeding traffic is a violation of Vehicle Code § 22400(a), which prohibits driving at such a slow speed to block the normal movement of traffic. The person behind them must still leave enough space to react. The person in front may have contributory negligence for slamming on their brakes or driving very slowly. Still, the person in the back usually has most of the culpability for a rear-end collision.
What are some circumstances where the driver in the front is at fault for a rear-end collision?
The driver in the front may be at fault in a rear-end collision for:
- Slamming on their brakes for no reason
- Driving very slowly
- Purposefully backing up into the vehicle behind them
- Merging when there isn’t room
- Broken taillights or other vehicle malfunction
- Insurance fraud, purposefully causing a crash
A driver in the front can be at fault for a rear-end accident. Their fault may be total or partial.
For example, two drivers are stopped at a traffic light in a row. The driver in front accidentally (or intentionally) goes in reverse, running into the vehicle behind them. That’s a situation where the driver in front is at fault.
What is the penalty for a violation of California Vehicle Code § 21703 – Following Too Closely?
A violation of California Vehicle Code § 21703 – Following Too Closely is a civil infraction. The person cited must pay a fine. There is also one point assessed to their driver’s license. In turn, that can increase insurance rates.
Following too closely is not a crime. You’re not going to go to jail for it as long as you address the ticket and don’t miss a court date. You have the right to a hearing if you disagree with the ticket.
Are there any other laws that may be relevant to a rear-end collision?
In addition to the following too closely law (§ 21703), other laws that may be relevant in a rear-end collision are:
- § 22350 – Basic speed law – A driver may not drive at a speed that endangers others
- § 22100.5 – Improper U-turn – Trying to make a U-turn when it isn’t safe to do so
- § 21658 – Improper merging – Entering another lane of travel when there is not enough room
- § 23152 – Drunk driving – Driving under the influence of alcohol or with an unlawful alcohol content
A person involved in a rear-end collision may receive one or more traffic citations. If they are not at fault, they should not receive a citation.
Is following too closely automatic fault in a rear-end collision case?
The party at fault for a rear-end accident will often receive a ticket for following too closely. That’s strong evidence of fault for the accident. The violation creates a presumption of negligence for the accident. The question is whether the person violated the law and whether the violation was a substantial factor in causing harm to the victim.
How to evaluate a rear-end collision
If you’re involved in a rear-end collision, know that the vehicle in the back is usually at fault – but not always. It’s important to evaluate the entire situation. Fault may be shared, and our lawyers can conduct a follow-up investigation in addition to what the police may have done.
In general, the party at fault for the accident should pay damages. All drivers should have minimum amounts of insurance to satisfy a claim. Of course, these amounts rarely cover accidents of even moderate severity, so it’s important to look further. The driver may have additional coverage, or you may have additional insurance that covers collisions, medical expenses, or an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Lawyers for Rear-End Collisions
Our lawyers can help you evaluate the circumstances and claim fair compensation following a rear-end accident. At LA Century Law, we help individuals and families. We’re committed to helping each client receive fair compensation for injuries, damages, and harms. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.