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Home » California Car Accident Lawyers » Can You Sue After A Rear-End Collision?

Can You Sue After A Rear-End Collision?

Most states allow auto accident victims to file a civil lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover compensation for their losses. However, the majority set the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim around two years, meaning you have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. Although, filing as soon as possible is advisable. Sometimes you can recover damages without a lawsuit, but you may still need the help of a legal representative. To better understand the legal options available, consider who is liable for the accident and what losses you incurred.

Who Is Liable for a Rear-End Collision?

Rear-end collisions are the most common type of auto accident. In most cases, the rear driver is likely at fault, but there are exceptions. The first step in determining whether or not you can file a lawsuit against the other driver is to find out who is liable for the accident and provide evidence to support that claim.

Common Causes Where the Rear Driver Is at Fault

The top cause of a rear-end collision is tailgating, which occurs when the rear driver follows too closely. Tailgating is commonly the result of road rage and is illegal in most states. Other typical causes of rear-end collisions include:

  • Failing to properly maintain a vehicle, resulting in a poor brake system or bad tires
  • Speeding, especially on a congested road
  • Driving too fast under poor road conditions, such as snow and ice accumulation
  • Driving while distracted, including visual, manual, and mental distractions

Under certain circumstances, the lead driver could be all or at least partially responsible for a collision. For example, changing lanes without adequately signaling or failing to fix broken tail lights may result in contributory negligence, meaning the driver in front contributed to the accident. Likewise, brake checking when someone follows too closely behind them could render the front driver immediately liable in some states. Ultimately, if you want to sue the other party for your accident, you are responsible for proving they behaved negligently.

Proving Negligence in a Rear-End Accident Case

There are three elements required to prove negligence in a personal injury case: duty of care, breached duty of care, and causation. As the plaintiff in a lawsuit, you must gather the evidence necessary to prove each one. If you report the accident to the authorities, file an insurance claim, and hire a personal injury lawyer, each one of those parties conducts an independent investigation to find evidence of the three elements of negligence.

Duty of Care

Every driver on the road owes a duty of care to every other driver and their passengers. In general, this means that receiving a license and getting behind the wheel of a vehicle automatically implies that the driver agrees to follow the laws of the road and to behave reasonably to protect the safety of other drivers. This element of a negligence claim is relatively prominent and requires little evidentiary support.

Breached Duty of Care

Failure to meet the standard of reasonable behavior on the road constitutes a breach of duty of care. The front and rear drivers can breach their duty of care in multiple ways. For example, you could prove they failed to:

  • Follow you at a safe distance
  • Stop within a reasonable amount of time
  • Properly use their turn signals
  • Maintain control of their vehicle

It is not enough to prove that the driver breached their duty of care. You also need the final element, causation, to complete a viable negligence claim.


You must show that the rear driver’s breached duty of care directly caused the collision and that the crash was the immediate cause of your injuries and property damage. Without damages, you have no plausible reason to file a lawsuit. Still, even with damages, you cannot hold the other driver legally responsible for compensation if you cannot prove they caused the accident. Remember that the burden of proof in civil court is significantly lower than in criminal court. You typically only need to prove the other driver’s negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning they are more likely than not guilty.

What Is the Settlement Value of a Rear-End Collision Case?

The value of your settlement comes from compensatory damages. These are the financial, physical, and psychological losses directly associated with the accident. Should you hire a legal representative, you allow them to investigate your accident, identify the compensatory damages available in your case, and find evidence to support your claim for those losses.

Compensatory Damages

The two types of compensatory damages are economic and non-economic. Economic damages are the financial losses related to bodily harm and property damage. They have inherently quantifiable evidence and are typically relatively easy to prove. Examples include:

  • Your medical expenses, such as ambulance costs, emergency department care, prescriptions, outpatient care, hospital stays, necessary medical devices, surgeries, and ongoing care for injuries with prolonged needs
  • Lost wages caused by missed work opportunities and loss of earning capacity
  • Out-of-pocket expenses, such as structural changes at your residency to accommodate immobility, childcare expenses while you recover, transportation to and from medical visits, or help in your household
  • Cost of repairing or replacing property damaged during the accident

The non-economic losses refer to the mental and emotional damage a devastating accident can cause. For example, suppose you suffered severe injuries. In that case, you might request compensation for the loss of your ability to enjoy life, the physical and emotional pain and suffering endured, and any related mental health diagnosis, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

You can typically add value to non-economic damages using the multiplier method, where you multiply the value of economic damages by a chosen number between 1.5 and 5. The number you choose depends on the severity of your injuries, with a higher number more indicative of more severe injuries. This process can be complex, particularly when gathering evidence to support your claim, but a personal injury has the experience you can use to your advantage.

Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help You With a Lawsuit?

Rear-end collision cases are often relatively straightforward. However, if you face challenges from the insurance company or the other party involved in the case, you may need the experience of a personal injury attorney to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Even a minor incident can cause painful injuries that require extensive medical treatment. When the financial stress starts to compile, your attorney will investigate the accident, gather the supporting evidence, and build a case to ensure you get a fair settlement to help get your life back on track.

At Johnson Attorneys Group, we work with auto accident victims daily and know the damage a rear-end collision can cause. We firmly believe everyone deserves fair legal representation, regardless of economic status. That is why we offer our services on contingency, meaning we charge no fees unless we secure a settlement or win your case in court. We also provide a complimentary case evaluation, so you share the details of your case and get the legal advice you need without worrying about the cost. Call Johnson Attorneys Group at (800) 208-3538 to speak to a personal injury attorney about your accident. We are available 24 hours a day.

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