Rear-End Collisions on Icy Roads: Who Is Liable?

By  //  May 10, 2022

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In winter months roads get slippery, making controlling a car extra tricky. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, icy roads are responsible for approximately 24 percent of all weather-related accidents. 

One of the most common accidents in icy conditions is a rear-end collision. Under normal circumstances, the vehicle that hits another on its rear end is liable for an accident with only a few exemptions. Even when the conditions are icy, the car in the rear will still be responsible for an accident by default.

A Driver Has to Practice Safe Driving in All Conditions

Motorists are required to keep a safe distance between them and the car ahead of them. However, this rule has some exceptions depending on the circumstances. In ideal circumstances, a vehicle must maintain a three to four-second stopping distance between them and the car in front of them. 

When the roads are icy, it is recommendable to maintain a longer following distance of five to six seconds. According to a report published by the American Automobile Association in a report: “The increased margin ensures that you compensate for the longer distance needed to make a stop in slippery conditions.” 

There are other precautions the rear car driver can take to avoid crashing into the leading car in icy conditions. These precautions include driving at speeds below the speed limit, accelerating and decelerating more gradually than they would in a normal situation, avoiding cruise control and ensuring that they get rid of all forms of distractions. 

The Leading Driver Could Also Be at Fault

Under some circumstances, the leading driver can also be held liable or partly liable for causing a rear-end collision. One such circumstance is when the front car abruptly engages in reverse gear, crashing into the following vehicle. Another case would be where the front car cuts off the rear car or changes lanes abruptly so that the driver in the rear does not have the time to maintain proper following distance. 

The lead car may also be liable for an accident if it lacks functional brake lights to notify the following driver of their intention to slow down or stop. The same case applies if the leading driver engages in reckless driving.

What Happens After a Rear-End Collision?

After an accident, you need to ensure the safety of all the parties involved is taken care of by calling emergency services. As you await help, you may want to document the accident scene to preserve evidence and collect all the information you can, which can help your lawyer build a strong case.

Irrespective of whether you believe you are at fault or not, the general rule is not to accept liability. The responsibility of establishing fault lies with the police and insurance adjusters. Not taking responsibility is usually a clause most auto insurances won’t cover, so you need to be careful not to get yourself in trouble with your insurer.

Most insurers require that you notify them in the event of an accident, even when you are not at fault. After informing your insurer, you may also contact your attorney to initiate the claims process.