Getting into a car accident is always stressful. But the aftermath — speaking with the police, exchanging information with the other driver, and then working with your insurance company to determine fault for the incident to account for damages — can be even more of a headache. This is true even of deceptively simple accidents like rear end collisions.
Many assume that establishing rear end collision fault is relatively easy. Isn’t the guy in back always at fault? The truth is, however, that it’s not always so cut and dry. A variety of factors can come into play that can quickly turn what seems like a minor accident into a drawn-out affair.
At The Law Offices of Loren Scott Etengoff, we understand how tricky it can be to determine fault after a rear end accident. To learn more about how a Vancouver WA car accident attorney can help, contact us today.
What Are the Rules of the Road When It Comes to Safe Driving Distances?
While many folks automatically assume the rear driver is responsible for a crash, the actual decision about who is at fault comes down to a variety of factors, such as the distance between the two cars.
Under Washington State law, drivers are responsible to keep a safe distance between them and cars in front and around them. Police will often give out tickets for tailgating since this can quickly lead to accidents if a car has to brake suddenly.
In general, cars in Washington must try to maintain a distance of two to three seconds behind another driver if they are moving at 30 mph. At faster speeds, drivers are advised to keep a gap of four seconds or more.
When Is the Rear Driver at Fault?
The back driver in a rear end collision could be found liable for an accident if they were not driving at a safe distance from the car in front of them. All motorists should understand that driving distances can change on the speed limit, due to signs on the road, and based off of general driving conditions:
- Road Conditions: Motorists who are on a highway should strive to keep more of a gap between other drivers since it takes longer to stop or slow down at faster speeds. Dirt roads also call for more space between cars due to the effect it can have on drivers, especially if they have to navigate around potholes. Roads with heavy road construction also call for vehicles to slow down but maintain a wider distance between cars in case someone has to brake to avoid a worker or piece of equipment.
- Weather: Bad weather, including rain, sleet, or snow, makes it harder to stop and control a vehicle. Drivers should maintain longer distances between cars in case they have to stop or slow down quickly. Fog or mist can make it tricky to see other cars on the road, so it is usually smart to slow down and leave more space between vehicles.
- Traffic: Many motorists try to drive closely behind the car in front of them in heavy traffic, since few people want to allow other vehicles to cut in their lane. But cars that are stacked up behind each other have little to no reaction time if one decides to slow down or brake, which can often lead to a rear end accident.
When Is the Front Driver at Fault?
The front driver may be liable in a rear end collision for several reasons:
If their rear lights are not working, other motorists will not be able to know when they are slowing down, leading to a crash. Or if the driver suddenly stops while driving or decides to start backing up, they may hit the car behind them. Accidents also occur after a car breaks down. Drivers who do not turn on their warning lights or push their vehicle out of the way can be hit by drivers who are not able to stop or swerve in time to avoid the accident.
To learn more about establishing rear end collision fault, speak to a Vancouver WA car accident lawyer at The Law Offices of Loren Scott Etengoff. We can help you determine whether you or the other driver was at fault for the accident. Contact us today for a consultation.