Who is At-Fault If You Rear-End Somebody Who Slammed On Their Brakes?

If you rear-end somebody who slammed on their brakes, you are still at-fault for the car accident and will be liable for damages. Most of the time the rear driver is the one at fault because they failed to follow at a safe distance, but who is at fault when you rear-end somebody who slammed on their brakes can change when the other driver reverses suddenly at a stoplight or pulls out into traffic without leaving enough space for other drivers to maintain a safe distance.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jul 20, 2021

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You do your best to drive safely. You never look at your phone, you keep all other distractions to the absolute minimum, and you are always on the defense. However, no matter how cautious you are, there’s still a chance that you could be involved in a car accident. Take the following scenario, for example:

You’re driving down the road, obeying the speed limit, heeding all traffic signs, and keeping a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the driver in that car in front of you or the lead vehicle slams on his brakes, and despite your best attempt to avoid a collision, you end up rear-ending him.

Believe it or not, rear-end collisions are extremely common. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board estimates that rear-end collisions account for nearly 50 percent of all motor vehicle accidents that involve two vehicles. In other words, almost half of the car auto accidents cases involve one driver hitting into another car from behind which is called a sudden stop accident.

While it might be comforting to know that rear-end collisions are extremely common, it doesn’t exactly give you peace of mind in terms of knowing who will be held responsible and how it will affect your insurance. If you’re wondering who is at fault when a driver slams on his brakes and you collide with him from behind, keep on reading to find out.

Who’s At-Fault in a Rear-End Collision?

You might be asking yourself “If I rear ended someone who stopped suddenly, who is at fault?” Generally, the driver of the rear vehicle who hit the vehicle from behind will be held responsible. Why? – Because of something that is referred to as “duty of care”. In layman’s terms, this means that all motorists are expected to practice a reasonable standard of care while they are driving. In other words, you have a “duty of care” to be a responsible driver when you are behind the wheel of a car.

As a motorist, you are expected to execute safe and defensive driving tactics, which include:

  • Maintaining a safe distance between your car and other vehicles
  • Controlling your motor vehicle
  • Adhering to speed limits
  • Obeying the rules of the road
  • Being prepared for unexpected changes in the behavior of other driver’s

If you fail to uphold reasonable care while you are driving, generally, law enforcement officials (and insurance companies) will find you negligent. In other words, any collisions that occur as a result of failing to uphold “duty of care” would end up making you liable.

So, before you check on any car repair estimate and the fine print of your monthly insurance, let’s find out who is at-fault. Regarding a collision with a driver from behind who suddenly slammed on his brakes, it will likely be determined that you were not maintaining a safe distance and that you were not prepared for sudden changes in the flow of traffic (see points above).

In other words, in the eyes of the law, even if the other driver of the lead vehicle slammed on his brakes out of nowhere, if you, the rear driver had kept a safe distance and were prepared for changes in driving patterns you would not have rear-ended them. 

Furthermore, you would have been able to react with enough time, and there would have been enough space between you and the other vehicle to bring your car to a complete stop. Hence the reason why the driver of the vehicle that hit into the car in front of them is considered at-fault.

In this case, you can expect that your car insurance would have to foot the bill for any damages to your vehicle, as well as any damages to the car you collided with. You will also likely see an increase in your insurance rates.

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Is the Rear Driver Always At-Fault?

While in most cases, the rear driver or tailing driver will be considered at-fault in a rear-end collision, there are instances when the driver of the vehicle in front will be held liable.

If any of the following apply to the driver in the front vehicle, he would be held liable for the rear-end collision:

  • The lead driver reversed suddenly and without warning at a stop sign or traffic light
  • The brake lights on the front vehicle were not working
  • Suddenly stopped to make a turn, but ended up not turning
  • Stopped in the middle of the road because of vehicle damage, and did not issue a warning of stopping (failed to use hazard lights) or pullover
  • Pulled out into traffic, not leaving enough space for the cars behind him to react to the presence of his vehicle

In these types of scenarios, there is a chance that the lead driver who was operating the vehicle you rear-ended will be held liable. However, it’s important to note that many of these instances can be challenging to prove.

How to Avoid Rear-End Collisions

The best way to avoid a rear-end collision is always to ensure that you are driving as safely as possible. Make sure that you keep a safe distance between you and the vehicles in front of you, keep your eyes on the road, and always be prepared to react.

For additional safe driving tips, please check out some of the other guides on 4AutoInsuranceQuote.com:

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