If you’ve ever been rear-ended by another vehicle, you know the feeling of sheer panic as you see another car speeding toward you. Many drivers who have been hurt in these crashes don’t have the opportunity to take defensive action, and injuries are often devastating. 

Who is at fault in a rear-end collision? As you’ll see in a moment, the answer is less clear than you might think.

The Dangers of Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end crashes are fairly common. They’re also dangerous — research has indicated that rear-end collisions comprise 29% of car accidents resulting in serious injury.

This makes sense when you consider how these collisions often occur. In many cases, one vehicle is stopped when a second vehicle hits it from behind. The sudden, forward motion of the impacted vehicle is often powerful enough to cause neck, shoulder, and spinal cord injuries.

Who’s at Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

At first glance, it might seem like the rear-ending driver is at fault during a rear-end crash. This is often the case. Consider these very common scenarios:

  • A driver sees a traffic light turn from green to yellow and speeds up, but the car in front slows down in preparation to stop — the vehicle that’s speeding up hits the vehicle that’s slowing down
  • A driver doesn’t notice that the car in front has a turn signal, so they hit the car as it slows down to turn
  • As a stoplight light turns green, a driver accelerates faster than the car in front, rear-ending the vehicle
  • On a highway, a driver doesn’t notice that traffic ahead has slowed down and rear-ends the vehicle in front

In each of the scenarios outlined above, the driver of the rear-ending vehicle appears to be at fault. However, in the real world, situations are rarely this simple. Consider these potential scenarios:

  • A driver slows down to turn but doesn’t use a turn signal, and the driver behind crashes into them
  • A driver stops or slows down but has no functioning brake lights; because they see no brake lights, the driver behind rear-ends the driver in front
  • A driver brakes suddenly and forcefully for no clear reason
  • A driver suddenly starts backing up while in a traffic lane

In the above scenarios — except for the one where a driver starts backing up in a traffic lane — both the rear-ending driver and the driver of the rear-ended car share some responsibility for the accident. 

For instance, a driver who suddenly slams on the brakes on the highway without reason is irresponsible. But had the driver behind them maintained a safe following distance, they would have had enough time to stop.

Understanding Missouri’s Pure Comparative Negligence System

Missouri is one of 12 states with a pure comparative negligence rule. Under this rule, you can recover damages even if you’re 99% at fault for an accident. 

So who determines your percentage of fault in an accident? When it comes to insurance claims, insurance companies make that determination, at least initially. An insurance adjuster will be assigned to review the accident. The adjuster will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident. That investigation usually involves the following steps:

From there, negotiations may take place between you (or, ideally, your lawyer) and the insurance company to arrive at a fair percentage of fault and resulting settlement. 

Depending on the percentage of fault in the accident, your claim might be paid by your insurance company, the other driver’s company, or both.

The process works somewhat similarly in a personal injury lawsuit. However, in the legal arena, it’s the judge and jury making the determination of fault percentage.

Avoiding Rear-End Accidents in St. Louis, Missouri

While you can’t eliminate the possibility of rear-end collisions — after all, you can’t control the behavior of other drivers — there are steps you can take to avoid them. By driving defensively and following traffic laws, you increase your chances of a safe, uneventful trip to your destination.

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm In St. Louis, MO

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, please contact Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today:

St. Louis, MO Law Office
1430 Washington Ave Ste 225, St. Louis, MO 63103
(314) 444-4444

Ladue, MO Law Office
9807 S 40 Dr, St. Louis, MO 63124

Columbia, MO Law Office
28 N 8th St # 502, Columbia, MO 65201

Creve Coeur, MO Law Office 
999 Executive Pkwy Dr #205, Creve Coeur, MO 63141