Which Driver is at Fault for a Rear-End Collision?

In no-fault states, it does not matter which driver causes an accident: under most circumstances, injury victims are compensated by filing a first-party claim with their own insurer.   However, Oklahoma is a fault state, which means injury victims generally make a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurer.  In some situations, the Oklahoma car accident victim may decide to file a lawsuit against the driver him- or herself.  In either case, the injured party must prove the other driver was responsible for causing the crash in order to receive compensation.  So which driver is responsible when a rear-end collision occurs?   

Who is Liable When a Car Gets Rear-Ended in Oklahoma?

When two drivers get into a collision, it’s often one person’s word against the other.  In order to establish who actually caused the crash, investigators turn to a few different sources of evidence, which can include crash debris, video footage, photographs, and eyewitness testimony.  Additionally, each driver’s actions will be compared against Oklahoma’s motor vehicle statutes to determine whether either motorist was breaking any of Oklahoma’s traffic laws when the accident occurred.  If either driver failed to yield the right of way, made an improper turn, or violated other rules of the road, he or she may be found liable for the resulting crash.

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Oklahoma’s rules for driving behind other vehicles are consolidated under 47 O.S. § 11-310, which provides that drivers must place a “reasonable and prudent distance” between themselves and the vehicles ahead.  The statute doesn’t specify a fixed measurement, so this factor must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  The Oklahoma Driver’s Manual recommends staying three seconds behind the vehicle ahead, or four seconds in poor weather conditions.  (On a related note, it’s important for drivers to know that Oklahoma courts recently ruled that failing to stay at least two seconds behind a vehicle could, in some situations, constitute the reasonable suspicion required to make a traffic stop.)

In most rear-end collisions, the striking driver is the party at fault, because there is a presumption he or she did not leave sufficient distance for making safe stops.  However, while fault is typically ascribed to the rear-ending driver, there are a few situations in which fault may lie with the driver in front: for example, if another car speeds into your lane from a hidden drive or parking lot.

Even if a portion of fault is assigned to the other driver, he or she can still recover compensation as long as he or she was less than 51% at fault.  In this scenario, compensation would be reduced to reflect the recipient’s degree of fault for the collision.  For instance, if the rear-ended driver was found to be 10% at fault, his or her award would be reduced to 90% of its full amount.  This is known as modified comparative fault, or modified comparative negligence.

Common Examples of Negligent Driving

Negligence means a driver failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent a foreseeable rear-end accident from occurring.  Recklessness, which is similar to negligence, involves knowingly disregarding major and unjustifiable risks.  Some common ways drivers are negligent or reckless include:

  • Driving while distracted by food, radio stations, smartphone apps, or other distractions.
  • Driving while fatigued, or falling asleep at the wheel.
  • Driving while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, or drinking while driving.  If you believe you were hit by a drunk driver, you should contact our drunk driving accident lawyers right away.
  • Failing to check rearview or sideview mirrors as necessary.
  • Failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, red light, or pedestrian crosswalk.
  • Failing to obey road signs.
  • Speeding excessively.
  • Texting while driving (which is illegal in Oklahoma).

If you or one of your loved ones was rear-ended in Oklahoma City, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, earnings you lost, and other financial losses arising from the crash.  However, it’s important that you act quickly.  The sooner you reach out to our law firm for legal assistance, the sooner we can determine whether you have a case and what the next steps may be.

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Contact an Oklahoma Car Accident Attorney of Hasbrook & Hasbrook

To learn more about your legal options in a free and completely confidential consultation, call the Oklahoma City truck accident lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040.  We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you’ll never be charged any fees unless we obtain compensation for your accident.  We handle truck, car, and motorcycle accident claims throughout the Oklahoma City area, including Moore, Edmond, Norman, El Reno, McLoud, and other local communities.