Any car accident can be a traumatic event. In the aftermath of a collision, you will want to find out who is at fault for the collision and whether or not you can seek compensation for any medical treatment or damages caused by the accident. But determining who is liable for the collision can be tricky.
It is easier to tell who is at fault with some types of collisions than it is with others. Rear-end collisions, while they may seem simple at first glance, can be among the more challenging collisions. Figuring out who caused a rear-end collision can come down to “he said, she said” as you and the driver who hit you make your cases. Naturally, you will want to prove that you aren’t at fault and that you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. To do that, it is important to be aware of New Jersey law and what the insurance companies and courts will look at to determine who caused the accident.
New Jersey is a state with a comparative negligence law. Under the law, insurance companies can determine how much each involved party contributed to causing the accident. They do so by apportioning a percentage of negligence (from 0%-100%) to each involved party. To determine this, the insurers will look at a variety of factors, including:
- Failing to maintain a proper lookout
- Failing to avoid the other vehicle
- Driver inattention
- Traffic violations (failing to stop at a red light or stop sign)
- Not adjusting driving to weather or traffic conditions
If the driver who hit you is found to be 50% or more liable for the collision, you can recover the damages you are entitled to. If you are found to be more liable for the collision you are unable to recover damages, even if your injuries or the damage to your vehicle is greater than theirs.
Rear-end collisions can take place for a number of reasons. Speeding and tailgating are common causes, as are distractions at the wheel, such as using a cellphone. To prove that you are not at fault, you will need to show that the driver that hit you was driving negligently in some fashion.
To establish who caused the collision, a variety of facts need to be found and shown to the insurance companies and/or the court. These pieces of information will help support your version of events and prove that you were not at fault in the collision.
- Speed: showing how fast your vehicle and the vehicle that hit you were moving at the time of the accident can show who was driving unsafely and caused the collision. It can also establish that you were trying to brake to avoid the collision.
- Vehicle damage: pictures or video of the damage to the vehicles can help establish how the collision happened and who hit who.
- Police report: the officer who responds to the collision records a great deal of information about the location of the accident, such as the position of the vehicles after the collision, the weather at the time, and statements from the drivers. The officer also generally makes a determination of who was at fault, which bears weight when it comes time to apportion liability.
- Scene investigation: often performed by an accident reconstruction expert, an investigation of the scene can reveal information such as tire marks or weather conditions that factored into the collision.
- Witness statements: if anyone saw the collision, even if they were a passenger in one of the vehicles, their testimony about what happened can help support your claim and prove that you were not at fault.
What if I am the Rear Driver?
In a rear-end collision, it is generally the driver in the rear who is found to be at fault. However, the driver in front can also be found to be the cause of the collision, especially if they:
- Are driving unsafely (erratic driving, driving with broken brake lights or flat tires, driving under the influence)
- Brake-check: slamming on their brakes for no reason
- Violate traffic laws
- Cut another driver off, or slow down immediately after merging
Showing that the other driver was negligent while operating their vehicle is often a straightforward process. But if the opposing insurance company contests liability, things can get messy. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer to help guide you through the process of proving that you were not negligent and getting payment for your damages.