California Rear-End Collision Laws
California operates under what is called a “rebuttable presumption” law. This means that, in a rear-end collision, it is presumed it is the fault of the person driving the car that rear-ends the car in front of them.
The “rebuttable” part of the law means that if the driver of the car that rear-ends another can prove it wasn’t their fault, then the fault will be assigned to the driver of the car that was hit.
For example, if you are following another car at a safe distance, and that car’s brake lights are not working, you may rear-end them if they come to a sudden stop because you had no warning. In that case, you would not be at fault, as long as you could prove their brake lights didn’t work prior to the collision.
In rear-end collisions where there is no evidence and no witnesses, the fault will be placed on the driver who rear-ended the person in front of them, regardless of whose fault it actually was.
Adequate Braking Distance
Part of the California Vehicle Code states that drivers must not “follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.”
What this means is that every driver must maintain a safe distance from the car in front of them to allow enough room to brake and/or safely avoid the car in case of an emergency.
If you’re following the car in front of you very closely, regardless of if you’re going 5 miles an hour or 50, if they stop and you rear-end them, it’s going to be your fault because you weren’t maintaining adequate braking distance.
Rear-End Collision Injuries
If you’ve been injured in a rear-end collision, you should contact a personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible. Even if you are the one who rear-ended the car in front of you, it may not be entirely your fault.
If possible, document as much as you can with photos and/or videos of the accident, along with the injuries you’ve suffered and medical treatment (if any) you’ve received. This evidence may help prove your claim and recover damages from the other driver’s insurance company if they are found to be wholly or partially responsible for the accident.
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