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Who Is At Fault In an Oregon Rear-End Accident?

Oregon locals can confirm that some of our cities can have terrible traffic. News station KGW8 reported that one traffic study states that Portland ranks number 12 in the United States for traffic congestion and 37th globally. The firm completing the survey, INRIX, also found that Portland drivers sat in traffic for 72 hours, on average, with areas like Portland’s zipper merge areas surely being contributors to that statistic. 

With so much time spent in traffic, it is likely that rear-end collisions will continue to occur frequently. If you are like most people, you probably grew up being told that when a car is hit from behind, the trailing car will be held responsible. While this is often the case in this type of auto accident, it is not always true. In this blog post, we will explain why.

Rear-End Accidents Are Common

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), 7.5% of fatal crashes in 2021 in the United States resulted from rear-end collisions. Moreover, a publication issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation recites that rear-end crashes occur with greater frequency than any other type of collision, and account for approximately 29% of all crashes – a tremendous amount of property damage and personal injury results from these traffic accidents.

What Causes Rear-End Collisions? 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that most rear-end collisions, both in the state of Oregon and throughout the US, are caused by: 

A few other factors, like inclement weather, fog, or mechanical failure, may result in a rear-end collision. When an Oregon rear-end accident is being investigated, the focus should be on finding out who is at fault. 

Who is At Fault In An Oregon Rear-End Collision? 

In Oregon, liability for a rear-end accident is determined by the rules of negligence. The law requires a review of the facts surrounding the accident to determine who acted reasonably under the existing circumstances and who did not. 

Frequently, it is true that the driver of the trailing vehicle will be the negligent actor.  Since distracted driving and following too closely are two of the leading causes of a rear-end collision, these are instances where it is much more likely that the following driver is liable and considered negligent by Oregon law. 

However, there are times when it may be more apparent that the following party is at fault instead – meaning that the car that was rear-ended actually caused the accident. 

When is a Trailing Driver Not Liable for a Rear-End Collision?

Broken or Missing Brake Lights

Consider a car, truck, or trailer that does not have working brake lights. A trailing driver may not realize that the front vehicle is slowing down or stopping. Depending on the circumstances, the leading driver failing to replace or repair their brake lights can be considered negligence. 

Reversing or Sudden Stops 

Similarly, consider a driver who puts a car in reverse and backs it into someone. In this case, especially if the tailing driver was sitting still, the person who reversed would be considered at fault. 

There are also times when a leading driver stops suddenly for no apparent reason. However, this can be tricky, because a case could be made that the tailing driver was following too closely. This is where an accident reconstructionist would come into play to help decide what the exact circumstances were regarding the incident. 

Multi-Vehicle Accidents 

Finally, there can be multi-vehicle accidents where a driver, who is not negligent, is pushed into the vehicle in front by a car from the rear, becoming sandwiched between the two vehicles. 

Ultimately, determining who is liable for an accident often requires reviewing all of the relevant facts at the time of the crash. An experienced Oregon auto accident attorney can help you evaluate liability and determine your rights as you work through the process.

Contact Your Portland, Albany, and Corvallis Auto Accident Attorneys 

If you have been injured in a car accident in Oregon, you likely have questions about your rights. The experienced automobile accident attorneys at Nelson McNeil Rayfield would happily sit down with you at a free consultation and answer these questions. 

We have experience representing injury victims all across Oregon, including in Portland, Albany, and Corvallis. We can help you assess liability, navigate your insurance, investigate your damages, and understand your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.