Is a rear-end collision always the fault of the rear driver?

One of the most common questions I hear is whether or not a rear-end accident is automatically the fault of the rear vehicle. This is such a common concern, because insurance companies in Washington often try to dispute the fault of rear-end accident claims when they represent the rear driver. Read on to learn why the insurance companies argue fault in these accidents, and what you can do to fight back if they use it against you.

The state of Washington, contrary to popular belief, does not have any type of automatic determination of fault. A lot of people believe that in a rear-end accident, the rear vehicle is always at fault, but legally, that is not the case. Fault must always be determined on a case by case basis, with the specific facts involved guiding the final ruling. Although the vast majority of rear-end cases are found to be the fault of the rear vehicle, it is not an assured fact that the jury will see it that way. The insurance companies are well aware of this fact, and will oftentimes dispute fault in rear end cases regardless of whether or not their position holds any real merit. There are many reasons they do this. Here are the top 3:

  1. It is done for psychological reasons against the accident victim who was in the front car. The insurance companies hope to overwhelm people who do not completely understand their legal rights, and get them to take a low settlement. If they can convince the victim that they are partially at fault, they will likely be able to get out of paying for all of the damages.
  2. The insurance company may try to do this as a delaying tactic. If they can dispute fault long enough with the accident victim so they do not file a claim before the statute of limitations runs out, then the insurance company won’t have to pay a dime. This delay tactic is used all the time against accident victims who do not have a Washington accident attorney to fight on their behalf.
  3. Insurance companies will also dispute cases like these when the accident victim hires an attorney that they know is afraid to go to court. If the attorney is not willing to go the distance on an insurance claim, they will settle for damages that are much too low. If you hire a lawyer who is not willing to risk taking the case to court, the insurance company may dispute fault even if the evidence clearly shows that you had no role in causing the accident.

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