If You Hit Someone from Behind, is it Always Your Fault?


Rear-end collisions are some of the most common types of car accidents, if not the most common type of collision. Along with being the most common, they can also be some of the most contested types of accidents due to the nature of the situation. All drivers feel like they are in the right and that the other driver is the at-fault party.

Whether someone says, “I was stopped, and you hit me from behind,” or “you suddenly slammed on your brakes, and I could not avoid a collision,” drivers frequently place the blame on the other party. There are cases when both parties are to blame, or only one party is responsible, but it is not always an easy answer. For this reason, hiring a personal injury attorney can help answer questions and find fault. The trial attorneys at Berman & Simmons will know what evidence is needed to help find fault after a car accident.

Rear End Collisions: Is it Your Fault if You Hit Someone from Behind?

The simple answer is: not always. Like every other accident, fault varies. There is not a “one shoe fits all” answer for accidents when you hit someone from behind. There are scenarios where if you hit someone behind, it is your fault, there are other scenarios when you hit someone from behind, and it would not be your fault.

A common example where you hit someone from behind, and it is not your fault, is when the front driver has done something to cause the accident. Whether they backed into traffic and caused a rear-end collision, were texting and driving and suddenly slammed on their brakes, or recklessly merged into traffic and caused an unavoidable accident. In these scenarios, the front driver would likely bear the responsibility and be found at fault for the accident.

When you hit someone from behind and it is your fault, you will generally know, even if you may not want to admit it. If a tailgating driver was distracted and driving and did not see the cars stopped in front of them, then they will most likely be at fault. If you hit someone from behind and you are found to have been under the influence, regardless of the other scenarios, you will generally incur most, if not all, the fault for the accident.

Proving Fault After a Car Accident

When parties are contesting fault after an accident, it may be more difficult to prove. It is rare that someone involved in an accident gets out of their car and exclaims, “I am sorry, that was all 100% my fault and I take full responsibility for the accident.” In a perfect world, this would occur, but sadly, that is rarely the case. To prove fault, it is important to retrieve information and evidence.

After an accident, not only is it important to immediately stop the vehicles and obtain information, but it is required by Maine law under Title 29 section 2253. This law requires all drivers to immediately stop at the scene or as close to the scene if it is unsafe to stay where the accident occurred. Further, it is required that the vehicle operators exchange their names, addresses, registration, license, and insurance information. It is a Class E crime if one of the parties fails to comply with the statute.

Obtaining this information and gathering evidence from the scene such as pictures, witness statements, police reports, and traffic camera footage will help prove who is at fault when you hit someone from behind or are hit from behind.

What to Do After Hitting Someone from Behind?

A rear-end collision could occur in a variety of ways and locations. When the car in front of you fails to stop or releases the brake pedal prematurely, a rear-end collision can occur. This can happen when stopped at a stop sign, red light, crosswalk, or while actively driving. After being rear-ended, it is important to take a few quick actions to help assure everyone’s safety:

  • Check for injuries and move to a safe location
  • Call 911
  • Seek prompt medical attention
  • Ask for an accident report to be prepared by police
  • Take pictures of the scene and document all surroundings
  • Get contact information from any witnesses
  • Report the collision to your the insurance company

While the other driver’s auto insurance provider will probably cover the damages brought on by a rear-end collision in most scenarios, your own insurance coverage might also be applicable. Your own auto policy may be able to assist in covering your medical bills If the at-fault driver lacks liability insurance, cannot be located, or does not have enough insurance coverage, it may be possible for you to pursue a claim for compensation under your own insurance policy’s underinsured motorist protection.

I Hit Someone from Behind, Is it My Fault?

When in an accident where you hit someone from behind, the law generally assumes that the driver in the back is to blame. The law makes this presumption because drivers are required to follow a safe distance behind the car in front of them. This is to give allowance for braking, slowing down, and sudden swerving due to an object in the road. It is likely that if you hit someone from behind, you will be held accountable.

However, this is not always the case, and there are a few exceptions to this general rule. For instance, the driver of the front car may also be deemed to be at fault for the collision if the driver of the vehicle drove recklessly or while impaired by alcohol or drugs, or if the driver of the front vehicle abruptly halted or braked without warning. Also, if the front vehicle’s brake lights were broken or it was parked against the law, the driver could also be held accountable when they are hit from behind.

If you commonly wonder if someone hit me from behind, is it my fault? You can see that the law will generally place the back driver at fault. However, tThere are also scenarios when the front car may be at fault, or even both parties are found to hold a fraction of the fault, or even that the accident was the fault of a third vehicle that caused the collision.

Can Multiple Parties be at Fault for Hitting Someone from Behind?

The lead driver, as well as other parties, can also be held liable for a rear-end collision, despite the common misconception that the second or rear driver is always to blame.

Maine is a jurisdiction with a fault-based system for auto accidents. Maine holds drivers accountable through their comparative negligence law in direct proportion to how negligent (or how responsible) they were in a collision. For instance, a driver who is determined to be entirely responsible for a collision will be held financially liable for all losses that ensue. On the other hand, a driver who is determined to have contributed to 40% of a collision will only be responsible for 40% of the damages.

It is possible that there are multiple parties in a rear-end collision, and in this case, each party or defendant will be jointly and severally liable to the claimant for the full amount of damages. This means that each party that is found to be at fault will independently be liable for the full cost of damages that were incurred. It is typical for a court to assign a percentage of fault to each defendant and sometimes release a defendant, which means the remaining will still collectively owe 100% of the damages.

A person cannot collect twice for the same injury. This means they cannot get 100% of the damages from each defendant. Instead, each defendant will be assigned a percentage of fault for the accident. Monetary compensation will reflect the percentage of fault by each defendant.

In a Multi-Car Accident, If I Hit Someone from Behind, Am I at Fault?

Chain-reaction incidents can be challenging since there are so many factors at play. The person driving the car that hits someone from behind is typically to blame in a rear-end collision. However, in a multiple-vehicle collision, any motorist could be to blame. In actuality, multiple drivers are frequently held responsible after a multi-car pile-up.

After a multi-car accident, investigators and attorneys must examine the specifics of the collision and the circumstances surrounding each crash in order to show who is at fault. There can be multiple scenarios that lead to a three or more rear-end collisions, like a speeding vehicle smashing into a row of cars waiting at a red light, following too closely or a car stopping short in the middle of the road to avoid an oncoming distracted driver who has crossed the center line.

It is most common for the second or first car to be at fault for the collision. It is rare that the drivers in the middle, or even the end are found to be at fault for the entire accident. If someone hits someone from behind and, due to other circumstances, it is then impossible for the third driver to stop, that driver will likely be released from fault. The same goes for a driver that is hit and pushed into the car in front of them. They will likely not be at fault for damages to the car in front of them unless they cause the accident.

If Someone Backs into a Driving Surface and You Get Hit from Behind, Who is at Fault?

It might be difficult to pinpoint who is at fault in an automobile accident where a driver backed into traffic due to multiple factors. The possibility of another vehicle backing up is not always anticipated by drivers. It is possible that several accounts of what transpired exist because each driver will perceive time, distance, and the series of events leading up to the collision differently.

Many people assume that the driver who was backing up at the time of the collision is always to blame. It’s possible that the driver who is backing up is at fault, but it is not always the case.

When determining the fault in these situations it is important to know:

  • Who had the right of way?
  • Was the car actively backing up, or did they come to a stop?
  • Where did the accident occur?
  • Are there any witnesses?

When someone was backing up, and you hit them from behind, it likely occurred in a parking lot. The driver of a vehicle backing out of a parking space must first check for other vehicles. Drivers do not always follow the rules, as we all know.

The vehicle backing up will typically be held accountable for the collision because it was going in reverse when it happened. The vehicle that is moving forward, however, has the right of way. Unless there is proof that the driver was speeding or not paying attention, that car is typically not at fault. If there is evidence that the forward-moving driver was behaving negligently, then one or both of the drivers may be at fault.

Car Accident Statistics for Rear-End Collisions

Roughly 29% of all car accidents in the U.S. are rear-end collisions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Information Institute. According to statistics from the Insurance Information Institute, rear-end crashes are to blame for more than 7% of all traffic-related fatalities and for close to 20% of those involving two-vehicle collisions.

In a finding from the most recent statistics published by Forbes, there were 5,250,837 accidents across the United States in the latest year. Of these accidents, over 1.5 million were rear-end collisions. Maine is generally on the higher end of the average U.S. statistics, with generally 30-40% of all accidents being rear-end collisions.

Avoiding Hitting Someone from Behind

There are numerous steps you can take to avoid a rear-end collision. You should give the car in front of you plenty of room. The best approach to prevent rear-end crashes is to allow space. You have more time to react to rapid braking and more leeway to stop your car before it collides if you leave greater space. Next, make frequent checks on your mirrors, including when you anticipate you’ll need to brake.

Pay attention to the vehicle behind you when coming to a stop. If they are not stopping quickly enough, you may need to be prepared to move your own car forward to prevent a collision.

Maine, as most other states, have rules about how closely cars can follow when driving on highways and roadways. Maine follows the “2-second rule” for spacing while driving. This means the driver must leave a minimum of two seconds of space between cars, which equates to roughly 3 feet. This should be doubled when road conditions are poor or speeds are increased.

When going through driver’s education, many Americans were taught to leave a car length of space between cars for every ten miles. This is no longer the recommendation, as crash experts found it did not leave enough reaction time or visual space. If cars were driving at 70 MPH, they were expected to leave 126 feet of space. However, the real reaction time at this speed is closer to 135 feet. The two-second rule at 70 MPH gives a driver closer to 200 feet to react, which is an adequate distance to avoid hitting someone from behind. In inclement weather like rain, snow, or fog, you should leave even more room between vehicles.

Handling Insurance Claims for Rear-End Collisions

Drivers who own and operate a vehicle in Maine are required to maintain the legally mandated minimum levels of insurance, and they must provide proof of this insurance in order to register a vehicle. The bare minimum insurance levels are often insufficient to protect yourself, and drivers should be particularly aware of how much uninsured motorist coverage they have, because that is the coverage that will protect them if they’re injured by a driver who doesn’t carry enough insurance. Drivers should look into a higher uninsured motorist coverage when discussing insurance options with providers. Operators should consider the amount they will need to protect themselves if they are seriously injured in a crash by an at-fault driver who is underinsured.

Reporting an insurance claim after a rear-end collision is typically the same as all other car accidents. There is a time period to submit a claim, which differs from the statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit. Maine has one of the more generous time periods for filing a personal injury lawsuit, which is generally 6 years from the date of the accident. However, if the at-fault driver was a municipal, state, or federal employee and was on-the-job at the time of the accident, there are much shorter time limits that apply. Someone injured in a crash caused by an on-the-job municipal or state employee (like a crash caused by a public school bus, fire engine, or police cruiser) has only 365 days to pursue their claim. Someone injured in a crash caused by an on-the-job federal employee (like a U.S.P.S mail truck) has only two years to pursue their claim.

In Maine, all drivers are required to report an accident under state statute when there is an injury, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000.

Hiring an Attorney After a Car Accident

There is not a single driver who is flawless at everything. You might be in a rear-end collision now or in the future because unfortunately, accidents are bound to happen. You should proceed in the same manner as you would after being involved in any other kind of auto collision if you hit someone from behind.

This will likely include contacting an attorney. It is important to contact an attorney sooner or later because of the time constraints with insurance claims and lawsuits. The personal injury attorneys at Berman & Simmons will Know all requirements under the law and will be able to explain fault and how to prove fault after being involved in a rear-end collision. Contact the trial attorneys at Berman & Simmons by completing the online form.