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Rear-End Crashes in California: Three Things Everyone Needs to Know

A rear-end crash can be a surprisingly serious event. Many people associate rear-end accidents with the phrase “minor fender-bender,” but just because a crash does not cause major vehicle damage doesn’t mean that the occupants of the vehicles involved can’t suffer serious harm. The harsh reality is that rear-end accidents can be (and often are) quite serious, and sometimes even fatal. If you’ve been hurt in a rear-end crash, don’t go it alone. Instead, get the legal representation you need from an experienced San Mateo car accident attorney.

An accident near Monterey late last month was, tragically, an example of a rear-end crash with massive harm to human life. The crash occurred along northbound Highway 1 after a Volkswagen SUV slowed “for unknown reasons,” according to The Mercury News. The vehicle trailing the SUV, a Ford pickup truck, failed to stop in time and slammed into the Volkswagen.

The driver of the truck escaped without injury, but the driver of the SUV died at a nearby medical center. CHP told reporters that alcohol and drugs “do not appear to be factors in the crash,” The Mercury News reported.


People have a lot of misconceptions about rear-end accidents. Here are three things that anyone involved in a rear-end accident in California should know:

    • Just because you were the driver in the rear vehicle, that doesn’t automatically mean that are legally to blame for the accident. The law creates what is called a “rebuttable presumption” that, in any rear-end accident, the rear driver is at fault. That means that the starting point for any case is that the rear driver was to blame. You, as the rear driver, can still overcome that presumption – and successfully hold the other driver liable – if you can amass and present enough evidence to the court.

For example, if you can show that you were not speeding and were following at a safe distance, but that the driver in front of you unexpectedly came to a complete stop in the middle of an open and unblocked travel lane of a freeway for no legitimate reason, then that proof might be enough to establish that the front driver was the party who was negligent and liable for that accident.

    • Just because you rear-ended a vehicle and are to blame, that doesn’t automatically mean you cannot recover an award of damages. California is what the law calls a “comparative fault” state. That means that, as long as you were not 100% to blame for your crash, you may still be entitled to some amount of recovery. (Some states require you to be free from any blame, while others require you to be less than 50% at fault.)

For example, say you rear-ended the car in front of you. You presented evidence that the driver in front of you tapped his brakes for no valid reason. The jury finds that you were 80% at fault, the front driver was 20% at fault and that you suffered $150,000 in damages. Under California law, despite your degree of culpability, you are still entitled to recover $30,000 (20% of $150,000) from that other driver.

    • Just because your symptoms didn’t onset right away doesn’t mean you can’t recover. A lot of people assume that crash injuries are immediately recognizable. After all, if you are in rear-end accident and you fracture your patella or rupture your Achilles tendon, you’re probably going to know something is wrong, and you’re going to know it right away.

Many times, soft-tissue injuries don’t work like that. People who suffer soft-tissue damage in rear-end crashes can go days or even weeks before the pain becomes noticeable. That delay in onset and your delay in recognizing the symptoms don’t mean you’ve lost your chance for recovery. With the right evidence, especially the right expert medical evidence, you absolutely still have an opportunity to obtain a full award of damages.

Rear-end accidents, like all other accidents, have a wide variety to them. They are not all alike, and the issues of injuries, damages and liability are not all alike. Getting the full recovery you need requires a legal team with extensive experience in handling accident cases. Count on the knowledgeable San Mateo car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos for that kind of representation. Our attorneys have been helping all kinds of people injured in auto accidents to use the legal system and get the compensation they need. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

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