In Arizona, the driver of the rear vehicle is presumed to be at fault in a rear-end collision. This is known as the “rear-end collision doctrine.” This is when the front driver is not required to prove that the rear driver was negligent. Instead, the burden is on the rear driver to provide evidence rebutting the presumption of negligence.
How Do Rear-End Collisions Happen?
Rear-end collisions occur when the front of one vehicle crashes into the back of another vehicle. They are one of the most common types of accidents. Rear-end crashes typically happen when the vehicle in front stops quickly and the following vehicle is unable to stop in time. This can be due to the following driver being distracted, intoxicated, or driving too closely behind the lead vehicle. Rear-end collisions also frequently occur at intersections, when a vehicle fails to notice that traffic ahead has slowed or stopped. By driving attentively, leaving proper following distance, and anticipating potential stops, drivers can help prevent costly and dangerous rear-end crashes.
While the rear-end collision doctrine may seem unfair to rear drivers, there are strategies they can use to overcome the presumption of liability.
Here are some tips for rear drivers seeking to avoid fault after a rear-end accident in Arizona.
Argue that the Front Driver Stopped Suddenly
The rear-end doctrine does not apply if the front driver stops suddenly and without warning. As the rear driver, you can argue the front driver slammed on the brakes for no reason. Demonstrate the front driver stopped abruptly in flowing traffic conditions. Eyewitness testimony and skid mark analysis can prove your point.
Claim Fault Lies with a Third Party
Sometimes a third party, like a valet driver or crossing pedestrian, causes a chain-reaction rear-end accident. As the rear driver, you may be able to pin fault on the interloper whose actions forced the front driver to stop short. Collect eyewitness accounts to substantiate this defense theory.
Allege Fault Due to Mechanical Failure
Mechanical defects like brake failure may absolve a rear driver of liability. As the defense, thoroughly examine the rear vehicle for faulty equipment. Obtain expert opinions pointing to mechanical defects that prevented stopping in time. Evidence of recent repairs or complaints about brakes can build this argument.
Dispute the Injuries Claimed
Even when the rear driver is presumed negligent, fault and injuries are separate issues. Don’t admit fault for damages that seem inflated or unrelated to the accident. Hire an expert to analyze medical reports and test results to contest dubious injury claims made by occupants of the front vehicle.
Argue Improper Stopping by Front Driver
Arizona law prohibits stopping in certain areas, like highway lanes outside emergencies. If the front driver stopped illegally, the rear driver may avoid fault. Vividly reconstruct the scene to show the front driver stopped hazardously or unnecessarily.
While challenging the rear-end presumption is an uphill battle, solid evidence and legal arguments can put fault back on the front driver or third party. We know how to build a compelling defense by dissecting the scene, analyzing records, and exploiting exceptions to the rear-end doctrine. With our help, rear drivers can overcome the assumption of liability.
Additional strategies to rebut the presumption of liability include:
Question Sight Lines and Visibility
Bad weather, sun glare, obstructed views, and other visibility factors could absolve the rear driver. Demonstrate these were present and prevented seeing the front car in time. Use weather reports, accident reconstruction, and sight line diagrams to prove poor visibility issues.
Allege Comparative Negligence
Arizona recognizes comparative negligence, allowing fault to be apportioned between parties. Though rear drivers are often presumed majority at fault, argue that the front driver bears some responsibility, reducing your liability.
Challenge Front Vehicle’s Roadworthiness
If the front vehicle had non-working brake lights or turn signals, the rear driver may not have had adequate warning to stop. Inspect the front vehicle thoroughly and document any malfunctioning equipment.
Claim Insufficient Following Distance by Front Driver
The front driver must leave enough distance between them and the next vehicle ahead. If they didn’t, and had to brake hard, the rear driver may not be expected to stop in time. Use expert accident reconstruction to prove your case.
Our experienced lawyers can attack the rear-end presumption using these and other tactics. They can thoroughly investigate, build evidentiary arguments, and aggressively fight the liability assumption on your behalf in negotiations or court.
With tireless evidence-gathering, creative legal arguments, and tenacious advocacy, the presumption of rear-driver liability can be rebutted. An innocent rear driver should not have to accept unfair blame when options exist to fight back.
Visit our office in Phoenix, Arizona to get help. We also have offices in 31 other locations in 18 other states.
You can call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.