What is the Rear End Collision Law in NY?

Car accidents happen every day, and rear-end collisions are arguably among the most common. As with many vehicle crashes, it takes two to tango, but who is at fault in rear-end crashes?

The question of fault is on everyone’s mind after a car accident. In many rear-end collisions, the tailing vehicle is often held responsible. This is because tailgating, or driving too closely behind another car, is a violation of the New York traffic code. Even so, the driver in front might sometimes be liable. If you were the tailing driver in a rear-end collision, you need to offer evidence of how the driver in front caused the accident. Whether you even get to this point is not guaranteed. Because of New York’s no-fault insurance laws, drivers are first required to file no-fault insurance claims, and proving who caused the crash is irrelevant. However, if you want to file a lawsuit, an attorney can help you meet the strict rules regarding when injured drivers may sue.

Call our Westchester, NY car accident attorneys at (914) 685-6950 and ask our team at The Martello Law Firm, PLLC for a free case evaluation to get started.

Who is At Fault for a Rear-End Collision in NY?

In any civil lawsuit, the parties are given the opportunity to present evidence and arguments in favor of their case. In some cases, courts tend to presume certain information based on the circumstances. Many courts presume that the tailing driver is responsible for a rear-end accident. Even so, if you are the tailing driver, our New York car accident lawyers may be able to help you rebut this presumption.

Courts often presume the tailing driver is at fault because following too closely behind another vehicle is a direct violation of the traffic laws under V.A.T. Law § 1129(a). Even when the vehicle in front is driving recklessly or stops short, rear-end collisions are often avoidable when tailing drivers keep a wider distance.

While tailing drivers are often at fault, this is not always the case. In some cases, the driver in front negligently causes a driver behind them to rear-end them. For example, if the driver in front abruptly stops and their taillights are inoperable, the car behind them might accidentally hit them. Depending on how closely the tailing driver was behind them, the driver in front might be held liable.

There have also been cases where drivers purposefully stop short in front of other cars to cause an accident. This is not an uncommon insurance scam. Again, if you are the tailing driver in this scenario, you and your attorney need some evidence of the other driver’s negligence to prove they are responsible for the crash.

Why is the Driver in Front Not Usually Liable for Rear-End Collisions in NY?

While a tailing driver might argue that the driver in front stopped short and caused the crash, stopping short is not a violation of the traffic code. In fact, drivers might need to suddenly stop to avoid a collision with another vehicle or to avoid hitting a pedestrian who has entered the street. This is also why tailing drivers are required by law to keep a safe distance from the vehicles in front of them. If they suddenly stop, you need enough distance to prevent a crash.

When a driver suddenly stops, whether or not they had a good reason or their taillights were broken, the driver behind them must not be following too closely. Following at a dangerously close distance is a violation of New York traffic laws.

Even if the driver in front suddenly stopped, and the driver behind claims they could not stop in time because the other driver’s brake lights were not working, the tailing driver might still be held liable. However, they might argue for reduced compensation under New York’s pure comparative negligence laws.

How No-Fault Insurance Laws Affect Rear-End Collisions in NY

New York is a no-fault state when it comes to car insurance. This means that drivers have to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance that covers them instead of the other driver’s insurance. Under I.S.C. law § 5104(a), drivers are required to carry no-fault insurance and file claims through their own insurance policies.

Generally, there is no need to prove fault when filing a no-fault insurance claim. This means that whether the tailing driver or the driver in front is at fault is often irrelevant to getting compensation. However, fault becomes much more significant when one driver wants to sue the other. Under the law mentioned previously, this is not so easily done.

To file a lawsuit, you must prove that you experienced a “serious injury” as a direct result of the collisions. A serious injury is legally defined under I.S.C. Law § 5104(d). It includes broken bones, significant disfigurement, death, loss of limbs, loss of a fetus, permanent limitation or loss of a body part, system, or function, or a medically determined, non-permanent injury that prevents the injured person from doing normal daily tasks for no less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately after the accident.

Serious injuries are a bit less common in rear-end crashes. These kinds of crashes are often fender-benders, and injuries are often relatively minor. In such cases, a lawsuit and issues of fault might never come up. However, some cases are more serious. The front driver in a rear-end collision might be pushed into oncoming traffic and badly hurt, and a lawsuit might be necessary to recover the full extent of their damages.

Speak to Our NY Car Accident Lawyers for an Initial Review to Begin Your Case

Call our Mount Vernon, NY car accident attorneys at (914) 685-6950 and ask our team at The Martello Law Firm, PLLC for a free case evaluation to get started.

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