Who Is Liable for Rear-End Car Accidents?


It may seem simple to determine fault in a rear-end collision, but it can be anything but easy. It’s often assumed that the driver in the back was the one is responsible because they struck the driver in front of them. This assumption, however, can be far from the truth. It is possible for either or both drivers to be considered liable for the accident. If you’ve been involved in a rear-end accident, it’s important to seek legal help—even if you don’t think you’re at fault. Here’s why.

When Can the Lead Driver Be Liable?

The lead driver is the person who is driving the car at the front of the collision. It is a common assumption that their car was the one struck, though it is possible that this isn’t true. It may also be assumed that they cannot be at fault because they were the one who was struck by the other driver. This also may not be true.

Under Tennessee law, there are times when a lead driver may be held fully or partially liable for a rear-end accident. These situations include:

  • The lead driver is driving recklessly. Swerving in front of the following car, slamming suddenly on the brakes or “brake checking” the car behind them, or making other sudden moves can cause a rear-end accident.
  • The lead driver reverses into the other car. This is common at stops or in parking lots and driveways. The lead driver will typically be completely at fault, especially if the following car was completely stopped.
  • The lead driver’s taillights are malfunctioning, and the accident could have been avoided by functioning taillights.
  • The lead driver did not pull over completely and clear the roadway when stopping.

When Can the Following Driver Be Liable?

Even if the lead driver is liable for the accident, the following driver doesn’t necessarily get off without any blame. It is possible for the following driver to be partially at fault as well, or even fully at fault. Here are some of the factors that can cause the following driver to be fully or partially liable for a rear-end accident:

  • The following driver is speeding or is driving faster than is safer for the road conditions.
  • The following driver is distracted and fails to break. Even if they weren’t using their cellphone or breaking the law, a distracted driver still is failing to uphold their duty to pay attention to their surroundings are react accordingly.
  • The following driver does not yield the right of way to a merging driver.
  • The following driver tailgates or doesn’t maintain a safe following distance while driving.

Who Is Liable for Multi-Car Pileups?

Many collisions only involve two cars. It is possible, however, for multiple cars to become involved in the initial accident if they are unable to stop or avoid it, or are struck by one of the cars involved. When this occurs, there are several options.

When one driver rear-ends another, forcing them to rear-end the car ahead of them, the first driver may be liable for the rear-end damage on all vehicles. Tennessee also operates under a comparative negligence law, in which multiple parties can be assigned a percentage of the blame for the accident. This may be the solution used when it is unclear who is liable for the damages in a particularly complex accident.

Get Help Determining Liability In Your Accident

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, you don’t need to face this stressful situation alone. Our Memphis auto accident attorneys have the insight and experience to understand even the most complex rear-end accidents, so you can have full confidence that your best interests will be well-defended. At Donati Law, PLLC, our team is dedicated to protecting your rights and helping you through every step of your case.

Contact our team to schedule a consultation today. Call (901) 209-5500.

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To discuss your case with an accomplished attorney who cares, give our firm a call at (901) 209-5500 or fill out the form below.

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