As traffic rates in Texas continue to climb, so too do traffic collisions. In the Dallas Fort Worth area, rear-end accidents are among the most common kinds.
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end collisions account for somewhere between 28 and 50 percent of all two-vehicle accidents each year. Of an estimated 1.7 million rear-end accidents, 1,7000 are fatal.
As a Texan, you may find yourself involved in this kind of accident, even if you are generally a safe and law-abiding driver who follows steps to avoid auto accidents.
It is generally assumed that the driver who rear-ends the other car is at fault in such situations. However, if you were driving and the car in front of you comes to a screeching halt and your vehicle hits it before you can react, who is liable?
To answer this question, let’s first consider how fault is established in auto accident cases.
Establishing Liability in Texas Rear-End Auto Accident Cases
No matter what state you are in, you are virtually always considered at least partially negligent if you rear-end another vehicle. This is because all drivers have a duty to drive at a safe distance from the car in front of them, in case the car should have to break for some reason.
That said, even if you did hit a car in front of you, there are certain scenarios where the driver in front of you may also be considered negligent. Examples of when the vehicle in front of you might be liable for a rear-end collision include:
- If the car’s brake lights are broken and do not light up
- If the driver suddenly reverses
- If a driver stops as if to make a turn, but does not actually make a turn
- If a car’s tire goes flat but the driver does not pull over or turn on the hazard lights
In these types of situations, whether they would be considered at fault or not would depend on how their negligence contributed to the collision and what state you are living in.
In Texas, we are a “comparative negligence” state. Read on to learn more about Texas’s comparative negligence law as it applies to rear-end collisions.
Texas’s Comparative Negligence Law and Rear-End Auto Accidents
A small number of states follow the “contributory negligence” law, which means that if a driver hits a car from behind, he or she may not recover any damages from the front driver in a lawsuit.
However, in Texas, a “comparative negligence” law is enforced. Comparative negligence – sometimes called “proportionate fault” – means that a portion of the liability is distributed to both parties according to their respective contributions to the accident.
Under comparative negligence law in Texas, liability is divided between the drivers according to each of their degree of fault.
For instance, let’s say the driver driving in front of you was found to be 50 percent liable for the rear-end collision and you were found to be 50 percent liable. If there were $10,000 in damages, the other driver would only be able to collect $5,000 in damages from you.
Note that if your percentage of liability is more than 50 percent, you may not be able to recover any damages from the driver in a lawsuit according to Texas’s comparative negligence law.
Texas auto insurance law can become complex quickly, especially dealing with situations that aren’t cut and dried – like rear-ending someone and knowing it wasn’t your fault. Feeling a bit overwhelmed is understandable. An experienced Fort Worth auto accident attorney can help.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing law in Texas in 2005. Before joining the Fulgham Hampton Law Group, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.