Answer: While most rear-end collisions are the fault of the driver coming from behind, there are driving too closely defenses in some accidents. Rear-end collisions make up 23% of all collisions each year (according to data from the General Estimates System (GES) and Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) databases).
Most rear-end collisions result from driver inattentiveness (eating, talking on the phone, checking email) or from following too closely. It is presumed that when a driver hits another from behind that the rear driver did not keep a lookout for the driver in front and was following too closely for the conditions. A driver is also responsible for knowing that it will take longer to bring a car to a stop in rain or on snow and ice.
There are instances though when the driver in front of the rear-end collision contributes to the accident. A driver who changes lanes without room to change may actually be liable if the car behind him then hits him from the rear because he created the situation where there wasn’t room for the rear car to stop in time. A driver who comes to a sudden stop without warning may also be at fault if he is then struck from behind. A driver following a safe distance at highway speeds may not be able to stop in time if another car suddenly stops for an animal in the road, or because he missed his turn. These are defenses which shift the presumption of fault from the driver in the rear to the driver in front.
The driver in the rear of a rear-end collision is not strictly liable for the accident. A personal injury attorney can help a driver better understand the defenses available in a particular situation and can help a driver put together the best possible case.