Can I be found liable if my car is rear-ended in a crash?

If someone hits you from behind, the accident is virtually always that driver's fault, regardless of the reason you stopped. A basic rule of the road requires that a driver be able to stop safely if a vehicle stops ahead of the driver. If the driver cannot stop, he is not driving as safely as the person in front of him.

The other surefire part of rear-end accident claims is that the vehicle damage proves how the accident happened. If the other car's front end and your car's rear end are both damaged, there can be no doubt that you were struck from the rear.

In some situations, both you and the car behind you will be hit when a third car runs into the car behind you and pushes it into the rear of your car. In that case, it is the driver of the third car who is at fault and against whose liability insurance you would file a claim.

Besides rear-end collisions, are there any clear patterns of liability in traffic accidents?


A car making a left turn is almost always liable to a car coming straight in the other direction. Exceptions to this near-automatic liability can occur if:

  • the car going straight was going too fast (this is usually difficult to prove)
  • the car going straight went through a red light, or
  • the left-turn car began its turn when it was safe but something unexpected happened which made it have to slow down or stop its turn.


Whatever the contributing factors, the law says the car making the left turn must wait until it can safely complete the turn before moving in front of oncoming traffic. Also, the location of the damage on the cars sometimes makes it difficult for the other driver to argue that the accident happened in some way other than during a left turn. So, if you have had an accident in which you ran into someone who was making a left turn in front of you, almost all other considerations of fault go out the window and the other driver is nearly always liable.


If you have no success reaching a settlement with an insurance company, you may be forced to consider bringing a lawsuit in small claims or other court. But you must be aware of the laws, called "statutes of limitations," that limit the time in which you have to file. If you miss your state's deadline, you will lose your right to recover compensation in court, and will be forced to abandon your claim altogether.

Check your state's laws to find the time limit that applies to your case.