Rear-end collisions are common in Sacramento, especially during rush-hour. In a rear-end collision the following car crashes into the car directly in front. While this form of car accident is common, establishing liability for the following driver, or tying liability to the car in front, requires evaluation of the facts, Vehicle Code, and California Evidence Code.
Usually, the following car is liable in a rear-end collision. It’s common sense that if the driver in front isn’t negligent, the following driver doesn’t usually hit a vehicle in front going the same direction unless they weren’t paying attention, driving too closely, or are otherwise negligent.
The California Evidence Code can help the driver in front prove that the following car was negligent in a rear-end collision. California Evidence Code 669(a) creates a rebuttable presumption of negligence for violation of a statute (like the Vehicle Code). Specifically, the statute reads:
(a) The failure of a person to exercise due care is presumed if:
(1) He violated a statute, ordinance, or regulation of a public entity;
(2) The violation proximately caused death or injury to person or property;
(3) The death or injury resulted from an occurrence of the nature which the statute, ordinance, or regulation was designed to prevent; and
(4) The person suffering the death or the injury to his person or property was one of the class of persons for whose protection the statute, ordinance, or regulation was adopted.
In turn, the California Vehicle Code contains several statutes that require following vehicles to not follow unreasonably close (V.C. 21703: The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway); keep a proper lookout for vehicles and obstructions ahead; & not drive at excessive speeds.
In light of the extensive provisions in the Vehicle Code, the driver who was rear-ended may be successful in establishing that the following driver violated a statute, and thereby a presumption of negligence arises by operation of Evidence Code 669(a).
While the ability to create a presumption of negligence for violation of a statute can be used against the following driver, sometimes it can be also be used against the front driver. Vehicle Code 22109 states
No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle on a highway without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give the signal.
Accordingly, if a front driver comes to a stop on a freeway onramp (a place we would expect the driver to accelerate, not stop), and their brake lights are out, the front driver may be presumed negligent for violating VC 22109; coming to a stop without giving the appropriate signal to the following car.
Whether your auto accident lawyer can establish negligence via a presumption of negligence through violation of a statute, res ipsa loquitur, or just the regular elements of the cause of action, an auto accident lawsuit may need to be filed. Take the next step with your auto accident case and call our firm at (916) 270-6880 for a free consultation.