get started today

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.




call for a free consultation

Can I Be Found Liable If My Car Is Rear-Ended in a Crash?

Posted in Car accident on February 26, 2021

It is a common assumption that the rear driver is always at fault in a rear-end collision. While this is often the case, liability is not automatic – nor is it guaranteed to fall to the rear driver. Instead, a thorough investigation of the crash is needed to determine fault and causation. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be found liable if it is your vehicle that is rear-ended in a crash in West Virginia.

Establishing Fault for a Rear-End Collision

Before you can file an insurance claim to recover from a rear-end collision in West Virginia, you must identify the at-fault party. Under the state’s tort-based insurance law, the claim will go through the at-fault party’s insurer. Since most drivers do not admit fault at the scene of the accident, it often takes an investigation of the car accident to determine and establish fault. 

Fault for an auto accident typically comes down to the legal theory of negligence. In car accident law, someone is negligent if his or her carelessness causes a motor vehicle accident. When negligence causes someone else injury or harm, the negligent party will be liable for related losses. If a driver carelessly speeds or runs a red light, for example, that driver will be legally responsible for a related car accident.

In a rear-end collision, the rear driver is typically negligent and causes the collision. All drivers have a duty to pay attention to the road, maintain a safe speed and stay alert for changing roadway situations. If the vehicle in front of a driver slows down, it is the rear driver’s responsibility to pay attention, notice and brake in time to avoid a collision.

Errors and lapses in judgment made by the rear driver most commonly cause rear-end collisions. Examples of mistakes that could cause a following driver to crash into a leading driver are distracted driving, texting while driving, drowsy driving, drunk driving, speeding and tailgating (following too closely). Road rage and reckless driving can also contribute to rear-end collisions. 

When Might the Front Driver Be Liable for a Rear-End Collision?

If it was the rear driver’s responsibility to prevent the rear-end collision and he or she negligently failed to do so, the rear driver will be liable for the crash. Otherwise, the other driver could take financial responsibility. If you were the driver in the front position and someone else rear-ended you, there are certain scenarios where you could still be found liable. This might be the case if you:

  • Drove with broken taillights or brake lights
  • Cut the rear driver off 
  • Wove through multiple lanes of traffic
  • Merged on top of the other driver
  • Brake-checked the other driver
  • Stopped for no reason
  • Drove in reverse
  • Engaged in reckless driving behaviors

These acts do not automatically place fault for a rear-end collision with you over the rear driver. It will take an investigation to allocate fault to you, the rear driver or even a third-party driver if the collision was a chain-reaction car accident. 

Shared Fault for a Rear-End Collision

It may be possible for you and the other driver to share fault, in certain situations. If an investigation finds you both partially to blame for the crash, such as the rear driver for tailgating you and you for brake-checking the rear driver, this could reduce the recovery available to you under West Virginia’s comparative negligence law

With this law, the courts will reduce your financial award by an amount that matches your percentage of fault for the rear-end collision. If you are found to be more than 50% responsible, however, you will lose all right to recover. 

If you need assistance determining liability or refuting fault for a rear-end collision in West Virginia, consult with a West Virginia car accident lawyer today for help.