Why Do Rear-End Collisions Happen in San Diego and Who’s to Blame?

There is a misconception that rear-end accidents are always minor. In reality, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that 29% of all car crashes are rear-end collisions. Rear-end collisions kill 1,700 people and injure  500,000 each year.

Rear-end crashes are written off as minor car accidents, but the reality is they have the potential to severely impact the lives of the drivers. 

The Causes of Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions that occur at a slower rate of speed meet the stereotype of a lower-risk accident. A higher-speed impact has the potential to cause much more serious injuries and damage. 

Common causes for these types of accidents include:


Tailgating occurs when a driver is not maintaining enough space between their own car and the car in front of them. 

Drivers are expected to exercise reasonable care while driving. Defensive driving is a more conservative approach in which the driver is able to maintain an adequate amount of space between themselves and the car in front of them. 

Aggressive driving would be characterized as failing to maintain a safe distance. In these types of accidents, the tailgating driver is almost always at fault.

Distracted Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 87% of rear-end collisions occur because a driver is distracted. Distracted driving occurs when the driver is occupying themselves with an activity that diverts their attention from the road. 

Texting, eating, talking on the phone, changing the radio, or interacting with other passengers can all be characterized as distracted driving. 

A driver who is distracted can still recover compensation if the driver in front is found to be at fault, but under California’s comparative negligence standard, the driver’s recovery will be reduced in accordance with their share of the blame.

Drunk Driving

Unfortunately, the California Office of Traffic Safety reported that 666 people in San Diego were injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident that involved alcohol in 2018. 

An intoxicated driver who rear-ends another car will find it hard to argue that they were not at fault. However, the burden is still placed on the victim to prove the driver was intoxicated.


791 fatal collisions occurred due to speeding in 2018, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety. 

Speeding can be more difficult to prove than the other factors on this list as the victim will have to prove there was an established speed limit on the road of the accident and that the driver failed to abide by that limit.

Careless Driving in Hazardous Conditions

Luckily in San Diego, there are not many opportunities to face snow on I-5 or I-15. However, there are still elements that can create hazardous conditions, such as rain, nighttime driving, or road construction. 

A driver who fails to take caution when these conditions are present could be found negligent.

Multi-Car Pile-Ups

Multi-vehicle pile-ups are some of the most fatal crashes possible. A multi-car pile-up is a domino effect in which one car crashes into another. Multiple cars subsequently crash into the following cars. 

California has a fault-based system, which means that drivers file their claims with the party who is at fault for the accident

Attribution of fault is highly argued in these situations, as each driver is expected to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them.

Who Is to Blame for Rear-End Collisions?

In the case of a rear-end collision, a standard of care must be established to determine whether there was a driver who was negligent.

In theory, insurance companies look at all evidence to determine fault, but remember that a claims adjuster’s main objective is to avoid payouts.

As mentioned above, every driver has a duty to maintain a safe distance from the driver in front of them. In the majority of cases, this will be the driving principle in assigning fault. For this reason, the tailing driver is often found to be liable for the damage that they cause.

Are There Scenarios in Which the Leading Driver Is At Fault?

A front driver can be at fault in some rear-end accidents. Some examples include:

  • The leading driver reverses without ensuring the road is clear
  • The leading driver suddenly stops to turn but fails to turn
  • The leading driver’s brakes are out
  • The leading driver stops for an emergency but does not pull to the side

In each of these cases, the leading driver would have a difficult time claiming that the tailing driver’s failure to maintain a safe distance could have affected the outcome.

With conflicting accounts, it can be helpful to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side to help you navigate the complex insurance system.

Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in San Diego Today To Get More Information

If you’ve been injured in a rear-end collision, please call Mission Personal Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation with our car accident attorneys or contact us online.

We proudly serve San Diego County and throughout California.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers
2515 Camino del Rio S Suite 350, San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 777-5555

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers – Chula Vista Office
690 Otay Lakes Rd #130, Chula Vista, CA 91910
(619) 722-3032

We also serve the state of Texas. Contact our personal injury law office in El Paso for legal assistance today.

Mission Personal Injury Lawyers – El Paso Office
201 E Main Suite 106, El Paso, Texas 79901
(915) 591-1000