How Does Fault in a Rear-End Collision Work?
Rear-end collisions are a significant source of frustration for all parties involved. It may seem so simple – you were hit from behind, so it must be the trailing driver’s fault. In most cases, that is usually true – the driver in the back is often blamed. But it’s not always easy to establish which party caused the accident. After a rear-end collision in Colorado, filing a claim for damages with another driver’s insurance company depends on fault. Colorado is an “at-fault” state, which means that the party responsible for the accident—or their insurance company—must pay for any damages. For this reason, knowing who is responsible for causing the rear-end collision is essential to proving a rear-end collision fault claim.
Who Is at Fault in a Rear-End Collision in Colorado?
While it can be difficult to determine car accident fault, rear-end collisions are most often attributed to the rear driver. But that is not always the case.
Colorado uses a modified comparative negligence model. This model allows drivers to seek compensation for their damages if they are less than 50% responsible for an accident. This rule applies regardless of whether a party was the front or the rear driver. In other words, in Colorado, rear-end collision fault depends on the specific circumstances of the accident.
As a practical matter, rear-end collision fault will frequently be attributed to the driver who is trailing another. Colorado law requires cars to follow other vehicles at a safe distance and not less than what is “reasonable and prudent.” Driving too close to the back end of another car at high speeds is a violation. Failing to follow Colorado State traffic rules and regulations is yet another. These and other infractions, like ignoring the car’s speed in front of you, are the most common reasons rearward drivers are assigned rear-end collision fault. However, there are a number of circumstances that may show the front driver is either fully or partially at fault for the accident. Examples of front driver negligence that may either be the full or partial cause of a rear-end collision include the following:
Reversing or Stopping Suddenly Without Warning
A driver that stops suddenly or decreases their vehicle’s speed without signaling appropriately beforehand, as proscribed by Colorado Statutes 42-4-608 and 42-4-609, may be negligent.
Failing to Use Appropriate Turn Signals or Turning Too Quickly
A driver who fails to signal their intention to turn right or left at least one hundred feet
before turning in a metropolitan or urban area, or at least two hundred feet before turning on a highway where the speed limit exceeds forty miles an hour, may be negligent.
Turning a Vehicle Left or Right at an Intersection from the Wrong Lane
A driver that turns at an intersection from an improper position on the roadway—for instance, a left or right hand turn onto an adjacent street from a middle lane—may be negligent for a resulting rear-end collision.
Driving Without Mirrors or with Broken/Damaged Mirrors
A driver operating a vehicle lacking mirrors reflecting at least a two hundred foot free and unobstructed view of the highway who is involved in a rear-end collision may be negligent. A mirror may lack a clear view if it is incorrectly mounted, broken, or covered by material.
Driving With Obstructed or Impaired Vision
A driver whose view is obstructed during driving may be negligent. Obstructed driving can include:
- Driving with more than three people in the front seat so that the driver’s view of the back or sides of the vehicle is obstructed;
- Driving with a video display playing in the driver’s sightline;
- Driving with a pet or other person in the driver’s line of sight either in the front, back, or at the driver’s sides;
- Driving with another person hanging out one of the vehicle’s windows; and
- Driving with blacked-out windows.
It’s essential to clear all obstructions and keep an eye on your blind spots.
Using a Wireless Phone While in Transit
Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-239 provides that a driver under eighteen years old may not use a wireless phone at all while driving. A driver over eighteen may not use a wireless phone to text while driving. Violations of 42-4-239 are considered misdemeanors and may amount to negligence. Using a wireless telephone while driving can often lead to a claim for excess or punitive damages, and is the leading cause of claims for distracted driving.
Knowingly Having Faulty Brakes that a Driver Fails to Maintain or Address
A driver must assure that their vehicle is equipped with working breaks that can stop and hold a vehicle. As a rule of thumb, a driver’s brakes must be able to stop at a distance of forty feet on dry asphalt or pavement, at a 1% grade or less, when traveling twenty miles an hour.
Driving with Defective Brake Lights
Every motor vehicle must have at least two tail lamps mounted on its rear that emit red light when the car breaks. These taillights must be widely spaced and visible from at least five-hundred feet from the vehicle’s rear.
How to Determine Who Is at Fault
After law enforcement responds to a rear-end collision and concludes its investigation, the reporting officer may offer an opinion as to each party’s percentage of fault. This can serve as valuable evidence as you attempt to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company. Additionally, photographs and eyewitness accounts can serve as valuable evidence.
The strength of your evidence can affect how high of a settlement an insurance company is willing to offer. For these reasons, after a rear-end collision, it’s crucial to clearly describe the accident to the responding officer. It’s also important to write the specifics down as soon after the accident as possible to have a supplemental account. Don’t forget to include everything you may have heard from the other drivers on-site.
What If I Am at Fault?
After the accident, avoid admitting fault when you speak to the other drivers or when the officer records your account. Even if you believe you caused the accident, your best course is to consult an experienced car accident attorney. Your attorney will investigate the accident and conduct their own thorough and objective examinations. This investigation can help to determine which, if any, circumstances will establish a rear-end collision fault. Your attorney will help you decide how to file a claim, maximize your compensation, and reduce your liability.
Reach Out to an Attorney Today
Our experienced team at Sloat, Nicholson & Hoover, P.C. can help. With over 90 years of handling accident cases, our compassionate and successful attorneys have received the highest ratings from the nation’s leading attorney rating service. We are dedicated to helping accident victims, and we take the time to get to know you and the facts of your case. Call us now at 720-729-3289 for more information.
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