Many people think of rear-end collisions as a minor annoyance. But the harm caused by even a small collision can cause serious, long-term damage to your wallet and health. 

Under California law, you can recover compensation for the cost of your injuries from the driver at fault in an accident. But victims reeling from the shock of an accident are often confused about their rights and how to assert them. That’s why it’s critical to seek the advice of an attorney. 

Even in minor collisions, an experienced rear-end accident lawyer in Santa Maria can be valuable in helping you navigate the complexities of the claim process. Consulting with a skilled attorney can make a difference in proving fault and helping you win the recovery you deserve. 

Who Is at Fault in a Rear-End Car Accident?

Many things can cause a rear-end collision, so who is at fault can vary from accident to accident.

In California, the blame for these accidents often falls on the driver in the rear car. California law specifically prohibits tailgating or driving too close to the vehicle in front of you. Drivers must monitor their speed and keep a reasonable distance between their vehicle and the next one.

For example, imagine driving down the road, following all speed and traffic laws, and starting to slow down for a red light. However, the driver behind you followed too closely and wasn’t prepared to stop. If they hit you, they likely hold the full fault for the crash, since they were illegally tailgating.

Make no mistake: The driver of the front car isn’t always off the hook. As the front driver, you can still be partly or fully responsible for a rear-end accident if you:

  • Slam on your brakes suddenly for no reason;
  • Have broken brake lights that don’t indicate slowing or stopping;
  • Drive in reverse where it’s not safe;
  • Fail to move a stopped car to the side of the road; or
  • Don’t regain speed fast enough after a U-turn.

Other contributing factors can also put some of the fault of a rear-end collision on either driver—for example, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, texting while driving, and behaving erratically or aggressively.

How Do I Prove Fault in a Rear-End Accident?

To prove fault, you need evidence of negligence. Someone is negligent when they fail to behave with the reasonable standard of care expected in a given situation. This includes following traffic laws, adjusting speed to the conditions, and avoiding recklessness on the road. 

You can demonstrate fault in a rear-end collision with concrete proof that shows the other driver’s negligent action or inaction caused the accident. 

Some common pieces of evidence used in rear-end claims include:

  • Traffic camera footage,
  • Vehicle computer data,
  • Photos of the scene,
  • Eyewitness testimony, and
  • Driver cell phone records.

A trained rear-end accident lawyer can help you understand the evidence relevant to your situation. It’s best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident so they can begin assessing and gathering the documentation needed for a claim.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Rear-End Accident Claim?

Sometimes, drivers prefer to handle minor rear-end accidents without legal help. For example, if a collision caused only damage to your vehicle, you could simply work things out with the other driver’s insurance company.

California requires all drivers to carry liability insurance. By law, if someone causes a rear-end collision, you can file a claim against their insurance policy and receive compensation for your damages.

However, filing a claim isn’t always so simple. The other driver may deny that they’re at fault or claim that you share partial responsibility. 

If you’re injured, it can be difficult to gather evidence while trying to recover physically. And the initial compensation offered by an insurance company may not capture the full cost of your losses.

For these reasons, it’s often best to seek the support of a trained rear-end car accident lawyer any time you suffer injury in an accident. No matter the incident’s size, an attorney can provide valuable advice and support as you navigate the complexities of filing an accident claim. 

Whether you’ve been in a rear-end car or rear-end truck accident, a lawyer can help you:

  • Collect documentation and file a personal injury claim,
  • Identify overlooked damages available to you,
  • Demonstrate another driver’s full or shared fault,
  • Keep track of medical expenses eligible for compensation,
  • Calculate the cost of noneconomic damages like emotional distress, and
  • Negotiate with the insurance company to maximize your compensation.

It’s best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after an accident happens. The sooner a trained legal professional is involved, the less you risk losing out on key evidence to support your claim.

Attorney Support Can Make All the Difference

The Frederick Law Firm has forty years of experience helping Santa Maria residents recover from the shock of a motor vehicle accident. As a small firm, we see firsthand how stressful the aftermath of car accidents large and small can be for our clients. The award-winning attorneys at our firm make it our mission to help you overcome the emotional and financial burden of a crash. Our advocates are both caring and aggressive when supporting our clients in and out of court. To learn how we can help you, connect with us online or call our office today to speak to a seasoned rear-end accident lawyer in Santa Maria.