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Rear-End Collision Lawsuit in California

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Dec 23, 2021

Review of a Rear-End Collision Lawsuit, Determining Fault and Damages

In most rear-end car accidents, the rear driver is held at fault, but not always. Liability sometimes falls on the lead driver, or another vehicle is liable for damages sustained by an injured driver.

For example, the lead car driver might be at fault in a rear-end accident if they were negligent or driving recklessly, such as driving with broken brake lights, driving under the influence, or putting the car in reverse, causing the accident.

Rear-End Collision Lawsuit in California
If you were injured by a negligent driver in a rear-end collision, you can recover damages.

Any driver responsible for causing an accident may be liable to the other driver and passengers for damages in a personal injury lawsuit. Determining who was at fault in a car accident is essential because that determines who is legally liable to pay for damages.

Liability can often be shown by determining whether a driver was negligent, which generally means they failed to drive with reasonable care or violated the law, such as texting while driving, distracted driving, speeding, or tailgating.

Rear-end accidents are the most common auto collisions on California roadways, and if you've been injured in one, you aren't alone.

California's infamous bumper-to-bumper gridlock combined with the multitude of drivers driving dangerously can be a recipe for disaster.

Often, a rear-end accident is a minor fender bender; but much of the time, these wrecks are severe and cause significant property damage and devastating bodily injury or even death. 

When someone's negligence or recklessness behind the wheel causes you or your loved one serious injury, you must understand how to move forward under the law. Our California personal injury attorneys will review below.

Determining Fault in a Rear-end Accident 

If you're rear-ended, the other driver will probably claim you somehow contributed to the wreck. There's a rebuttable presumption in California that the individual who hit you caused the accident.

They may be able to rebut this presumption by claiming you violated California Vehicle Code §§ 22100 – 23336. Some of the sections most relevant to rear-end accidents include:

Vehicle Code 22109 VC – suddenly stopping without signaling is defined as:

  • Nobody shall suddenly stop or decrease the speed of a vehicle on a highway without first giving an appropriate signal to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is an opportunity to give the signal.”

Vehicle Code 22350 VC – the fundamental speed law in California is defined as:

  • “Nobody shall drive a vehicle on a highway at speed greater than is reasonable having proper regard for weather, visibility, the traffic, and the surface and width of the highway, and speed which endangers the safety of other people.”

Vehicle Code 21750(a) VC – overtaking and passing on roadways is defined as: 

  • “Any driver of a vehicle overtaking another car driving in the same direction will pass to the left at a safe distance without the interference of the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle, subject to some exceptions.”

Vehicle Code 21703 VC – following too closely (tailgating) is defined as: 

  • “Any driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another car more closely than is reasonable, having regard for the speed of the vehicle, traffic, and the condition of the roadway.”

As noted above, the lead driver can be held at fault for a rear-end car accident if they were not using reasonable care when they were driving

The most common cause for a rear-end accident involves a car driver suddenly braking, causing the rear car to collide with them from the rear.

Tailgating laws (VC 21703) require a safe following distance depending on the road conditions, such as a wet road, nighttime driving, weight of vehicle, and stop-and-go traffic.

Distracted driving is a common cause of rear-end car accidents. Some examples include changing the radio station, adjusting the car seat, looking at your cell phone, texting, eating while driving, putting on makeup, and others.

What Are the Accident Reporting Requirements?

If you've been in a car wreck in California, you need to know about the strict reporting mandates.

  • California Vehicle Code, § 16000: Anyone involved in an auto accident that resulted in damages or injuries exceeding $1,000 in costs must report the accident to the DMV within ten days;
  • California Vehicle Code, § 16050: Reporting the incident is a prerequisite to establishing evidence of financial responsibility.

Accordingly, when you've suffered from a car accident, you must report the incident within the period required by law.

Failure to do so will jeopardize your ability to recover financially, and the report needs to be made by you, your attorney, or your insurance agent.   

California Uninsured Motorist Insurance Requirements

When someone is injured in a car accident, financial relief almost always comes from the insurance coverage carried by the party or parties at fault.

Of course, there can be an issue when the driver who hit you is uninsured. In California, all drivers must carry uninsured motorist insurance on their policies.

California Insurance Code, §11580.2 states that while the uninsured motorist provision of your policy is a safety net, the statute says:

  • “This coverage doesn't apply to any bodily injury until the limits of liability policies apply to all insured vehicles causing the injury have been exhausted, and proof of the payment is submitted to the insurer providing the underinsured motorist coverage.”

Rear-end Accident Injuries and Property Damage

While it's easy to think of rear-end accidents as simple fender benders, these car collisions can result in severe injury and even death.

Factors that increase the severity of injuries and property damage include:

  • Speed,
  • Size of vehicle,
  • Number of vehicles involved,
  • Age and health of the victims in the impacted car.

When you or someone you love is involved in a car accident, some costs are immediately apparent, while others will be difficult to anticipate.

Expenses and damages you need to consider when you've been hurt in a rear-end accident include:

  • Damage to the vehicle,
  • Damage to property inside the vehicle,
  • Emergency medical costs,
  • Short-term loss of income,
  • Ongoing physical therapy or medical expenses,
  • Permanent loss of income due to incapacity to work,
  • Lost earning capacity,
  • Loss of consortium,
  • Disfigurement and scarring,
  • Pain and suffering.

In addition to the economic impact that the expenses listed above can have, you may also be burdened with costs associated with the loss of a loved one.

When someone tragically dies in a car accident, the surviving family needs to consider a lifetime of lost wages in addition to funeral expenses.  A spouse or domestic partner could file a wrongful death lawsuit.

If you were partly to blame for the accident, California is a “comparative fault” state. This means you might be able to still recover damages for the accident.

The fault can be divided between all the parties involved in a read-end car accident. For example, you could recover damages based on the level of responsibility of the other driver involved.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer After a Car Collision?

Many drivers believe they can handle a car accident claim independently or let their auto insurance company take care of it.

You need to understand the primary goal of an insurance company adjuster is to pay as little as possible on a claim.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer After a Car Collision?
Contact our office for a free case review.

They might even attempt to deny the claim or keep stalling, so you will accept their low-ball settlement offer. Put simply; your best interest is not their interest.

Rather than dealing with an auto insurance company seeking to pay you the smallest amount possible, you need to reach out to injury lawyers with experience in rear-end car accidents and negotiating with insurance adjusters.

We know how to fight back by using car accident investigators and medical experts so you can recover the maximum compensation you are entitled after an accident.

Injury Justice Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County, and we serve victims of negligence throughout Southern California, including Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura County. Contact us at (818) 781-1570, or fill out our contact form.

About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...


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