Who Is Liable for a Rear-End Accident in California?

Based on the Census Bureau’s most recent July 2021 estimate, California has over 39.5 million residents. Millions of residents and guests are on the move in California at any given time. The California Highway Patrol’s most recent report indicates over 187,211 crashes occurred in the Golden State in 2019, resulting in 269,031 injuries and 3,737 deaths. Sadly, the number of traffic-related deaths increased to 3,847 in 2020. And while rear-end collisions are not the only cause of accidents, they are quite common.

Michael Henderson can help you determine who has liability for a rear-end accident in California. With over 25 years of experience advocating for victims of rear-end car accidents throughout California, he understands your struggles and will tirelessly work to defend your rights. 

Understanding California’s Laws on Liability for a Rear-End Collision

California’s Rules of the Road and other traffic laws determine who is liable for a rear-end collision. For example, California’s right-of-way rules dictate who must yield and who can proceed in a given situation. Who had the right of way is a common legal issue in many car accident cases, and rear-end collisions are no different. 

Other laws that may come into play include the following:

  • Regulations around parking and driving in parking lots; 
  • Speeding laws; 
  • Turning and turn signal rules; 
  • Pedestrian rights and laws; 
  • Rules surrounding alcohol and drug use while driving;
  • Laws regarding stopping, parking, and leaving a car idle; and 
  • Regulations about particular stopping scenarios. 

These and other laws might come into play and have an immense impact on who is at fault in a rear-end accident. 

How Do You Determine Who Is At Fault for a Rear-End Collision?

Who is at fault for a rear-end car accident? The answer ultimately depends on the unique facts and the law that applies to your case. The rear driver is often at fault, but there are situations where the other driver could be liable. 

Let’s discuss the various types of evidence you can use to prove liability in a rear-end collision case

Witness Statements

Witness statements can play an essential role in determining liability. During the claims process, the parties can call witnesses to testify about what happened. The parties could also ask bystanders questions about what they observed. You and the opposing party could use these statements to craft an argument about what occurred and who is liable. 


Photographic evidence can be essential for proving liability. It can also help assess the damages you’re entitled to. Therefore, if you are physically able, be sure to take photographs of the crash scene. 

Physical Evidence

Skid marks, dents, paint transfers, and other physical evidence can help the parties determine what occurred. The location and size of the physical damage to a vehicle can speak volumes about what did or did not happen. 

You or your attorney could also call on the help of an accident reconstructionist. These experts thoroughly investigate and reconstruct accidents using available evidence.  

Security Footage

If the accident occurred in a parking lot or near a store, there is a chance that there is video evidence of the crash. Security footage can help the parties get an idea of what occurred. 

Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents in California

Rear-end accidents can stem from a variety of underlying causes, including the following:

  • Driving while intoxicated or under the influence,
  • Speeding,
  • Distracted driving,
  • Mechanical errors,
  • Failure to yield,
  • Improper lane usage, and 
  • Hazardous road conditions. 

Each of these invokes a unique set of facts and laws that can impact the case’s outcome. For example, the manufacturer or dealer may be at fault if the car accident was due to faulty brakes. In that scenario, even if you are the rear driver, you may not be at fault for the accident. 

Common Scenarios Where Rear-End Collisions Occur

Stop-and-go traffic is just one of the many scenarios where a rear-end collision might occur. A host of circumstances could give rise to this type of accident. 

Parking Lot Accidents

Parking lots can be risky places for drivers and pedestrians. Rear-end accidents can occur between a parked car and a moving car or between two moving cars. 

Backing Out of a Driveway

When backing out of a driveway, it is important to proceed slowly and continuously check your surroundings. As you back up, passing cars can enter your field of vision. Drivers who fail to yield to passing traffic or who intentionally speed up to get ahead of a car backing out of its driveway could cause terrible rear-end accidents. 

Accidents Occurring When a Car Is Turning Right or Left

Anytime a car enters another active lane of traffic, there is the risk of an accident happening. Drivers entering and leaving a roadway must follow posted signs, use their turn signal, and yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles. When this does not occur, it can cause a car with the right of way to collide with the rear end of the vehicle entering the traffic flow

Lane-Change Accidents

Changing lanes is a necessary but potentially risky maneuver. By definition, changing lanes involves moving your car into another lane of traffic that is possibly moving at highway speeds. 

When drivers fail to check their mirrors or notify other drivers that they are going to change lanes, it could cause a severe accident. The same result could occur if drivers in the other lane speed up to close the gap rather than let your car in safely. 

Henderson Law—We Can Help You Understand Who Is Liable for a Rear-End Accident in California

We understand the applicable laws regarding liability for a rear-end accident in California. Henderson Law has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of clients just like you throughout the firm’s decades in operation. Michael Henderson’s professionalism and high-quality advocacy skills have been honored by awards, including when the National Trial Lawyers Association named him as one of the Top 100 trial lawyers in both 2016 and 2017. If you or a loved one were injured in a rear-end car accident in California, call our dedicated legal team today or contact us online.