Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

Despite falling in the top third of states for fatal car accidents, World Population Review reports that New York consistently has one of the lowest death rates per 100,000 drivers. Still, with more than 372,000 reported car accidents in New York in the most recent year for which data is available, there is a good chance that you or someone you know will be involved in a vehicle accident that causes property damage or injury.

A rear-end collision is one common type of multi-vehicle accident where one is hit from behind by another. This scenario consists of a front car that gets struck by a following one. Some rear-end accidents involve multiple vehicles. If you have been in a rear-end crash, you may wonder how fault is determined.

How the At-Fault is Determined in a Rear-End Collision

The truth is that many car accidents are avoidable. Because of that, the following driver is presumed to be at fault in most rear-end collisions. Because the following car is behind the first, its driver is responsible for maintaining a safe distance that allows him to come to a complete stop without causing an accident. Therefore, crashes are assumed to happen when that distance is not maintained or the second driver is not paying attention.

Of course, that isn’t always the case. For example, the driver of the front car could make a sudden movement. Mechanical failure of either car can also lead to an accident. Therefore, providing as many details as possible when filling out accident reports is crucial to help establish fault. However, you should also remember that New York is a no-fault state, so you will file an initial claim through your personal policy.

Proving Negligence in a Rear-End Collision

Just because it appears on the surface that the rear driver is at fault, it is not always the case. If the rear driver can produce evidence showing they were not responsible for the crash, they may escape liability. While it sounds intimidating, it is possible to do.

First, you must prove that you were not negligent despite being the rear driver. This can be done by showing evidence of situations beyond your control, such as:

  • A mechanical failure in the vehicle
  • An emergency or sudden situation on the road caused you to speed up or swerve suddenly
  • The first driver cut you off and then stopped, sometimes called brake checking

It can be challenging to prove a lack of negligence on your own. However, if you rear-ended another car with yours and feel that it was unpreventable, it can help to speak with an experienced injury attorney can help. Cellino Law lawyers know about New York’s traffic laws and how to get you a favorable settlement after an accident.

Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions in New York

Many factors can cause accidents. However, when it comes to rear-end collisions in New York, the following are the most common causes reported.

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving can take many forms. A few examples include speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, making unsafe lane changes, and unlawful passing of other vehicles. Unfortunately, these are all among the most common causes of car accidents in New York.

Following too closely is a form of aggressive driving and one of the most common causes of rear-end collisions. In New York, a driver who rear-ends another car may be ticketed for violating the state’s traffic law VTL 1129. This law states that a driver must maintain a safe and prudent distance between his vehicle and the one in front of him. Failure to abide by this law can result in fines of up to $450, points on your license, and increased insurance rates.

Distracted Driving

Many drivers today are trying to multitask while behind the wheel. Unfortunately, this can have disastrous consequences, such as a rear-end accident. Some examples of distracted driving include driving while talking on a hand-held phone, texting, and eating. Drivers engaging in these activities cannot give their full attention to the road and other drivers around them.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is another common cause of accidents. These substances impair judgment and dull reflexes, which can contribute to a crash. That is why it is illegal to operate a vehicle after drinking or taking certain medications or drugs.

New York Is a No-Fault State

New York is among the many states that use a no-fault system for auto accidents. That means that regardless of what caused the crash or who is ultimately found responsible for it, you will almost always submit claims through your own insurance company first.

No-Fault Insurance Requirements

All drivers in New York must carry a minimum amount of insurance. No-fault laws mean that drivers must also have $50,000 of personal injury protection in place in addition to liability coverage. You can purchase additional PIP coverage for costs above $50,000, but it is not required.

If you are in an accident, your PIP coverage typically pays for the following up to policy limits:

  • Reasonable and customary medical costs, either directly to a provider or through reimbursement
  • A portion of lost earnings from work, up to $2,000 per month
  • Up to $25 per day for other reasonable and necessary costs, such as in-home assistance
  • A $2,000 death benefit which is payable in addition to the $50,000 policy limit

Exceptions to New York’s No-Fault Rules

Your PIP insurance may not pay in certain situations, such as if you were driving while intoxicated or in a stolen vehicle when the accident occurred. Additionally, motorcycles are exempt from the no-fault provision. If you are hit while operating a motorcycle, you can sue the other driver from the outset.

Threshold of No-Fault Insurance in New York

There are limits to a PIP policy. In New York, you must carry $50,000 in coverage. While you may opt for additional coverage, this is considered the threshold for no-fault coverage. Once your recovery costs reach that, you may seek compensation from the responsible driver.

Additionally, if you suffer serious injuries in an accident, you may seek damages from the responsible driver. New York State’s insurance statutes define a serious injury as one that results in:

  • Death or dismemberment
  • A significant limitation of bodily function
  • Permanent loss of use of a body part
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Fractures
  • Disfigurement

When determining the cost of your injuries, you must look beyond the face value of your bills to the many other financial implications, such as lost work, that are not covered by your PIP insurance. Additionally, it is common to incur non-monetary losses such as emotional pain and suffering after a car accident.

Accident and injury attorneys can help you estimate a fair value for your losses. At Cellino Law, we have recovered more than $2 billion in settlements for clients in New York, and we will work to help you get the compensation you deserve after a rear-end collision.

Get Legal Support After a Rear-End Accident in New York

Cellino Law has been helping accident victims seek fair compensation for more than 60 years. If you have been in a rear-end crash, there’s a good chance that we can help you, too. Contact us at 800-555-5555 to find your local office and schedule a free case review.



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