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Who is at Fault for a Rear End Collision in Washington?

December 3, 2019 – Matt Albrecht

Who is at Fault for a Rear End Collision in Washington?

Rear end collisions are among the most common type of auto accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that rear end collisions make up nearly 30 percent of all auto accidents reported in the United States. 

Many people incorrectly assume that the rear driver is always at fault for this type of accident. While this is understandable—the rear driver is usually at fault—the truth is more complicated. Every accident must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Here, our Spokane car accident attorneys explain how fault is determined in a rear end collision in Washington. 

The Rear Driver is Typically at Fault – But there are Exceptions

Washington is a comparative fault state. Under Washington law, negligent drivers will be held responsible for their share of the blame for a crash. There is a general presumption that the second driver in line is the one who was at fault for a rear end collision. However, Washington law does not state that the rear driver is always at fault. Each crash will be reviewed on case-by-case basis. Some of the primary reasons why rear drivers are liable for these types of collisions include: 

  • Speeding; 
  • Following too closely; 
  • Not paying attention to the road;
  • Distracted driving; and
  • Failure to maintain a vehicle’s brakes. 

It is the rear driver’s responsibility to leave enough distance between themselves and another vehicle to make a safe stop—always accounting for the possibility that a quick and unexpected stop may be necessary. Rear drivers must also operate their vehicle at a safe speed and keep their focus and attention to the road at all times. 

When a Front Driver Could Be Held Partially Liable for a Rear End Collision

In some cases, rear end collisions are caused, at least partially, by the unsafe conduct of the front driver. As an example, operating a vehicle with broken tail lights or broken brake lights is dangerous. If it is determined that malfunctioning brake lights contributed to a rear end collision, the front driver can be held liable for part of the crash damages. 

Front drivers may also be held partially liable for rear end collisions that involved an unsafe lane change or an unsafe merge. If the front driver pulled out directly in front of another car, there may have been little or nothing that the rear driver could have done to avoid the collision. In these circumstances, the front driver could bear liability for the entire crash. 

Your Crash Requires an In-Depth Investigation

All major motor vehicle accidents require a comprehensive investigation. If you were hurt in a rear end collision, it is crucial that all relevant evidence is gathered—from photographs and videos to eyewitness statements and accident reports. The more information that you have, the easier it will be to prove liability and recover the full financial compensation that you rightfully deserve. 

Were You Injured in an Auto Accident in Spokane?

We can help. At‌ ‌Albrecht‌ ‌Law‌ ‌PLLC,‌ ‌our Washington auto accident lawyers have extensive experience handling rear end collisions claims. For a free, no obligation review of your case, please contact our legal team today. From our law office in Spokane, we represent injured victims throughout Eastern Washington.

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