If I rear-ended a reckless driver who wasn’t following traffic laws, is there any way I can fight this?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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If I rear-ended a reckless driver who wasn’t following traffic laws, is there any way I can fight this?

The other day while I was driving home I got stuck behind a car going 5 miles under the speed limit. He

was going 30 in a 35 mph zone with no visible cars in front of him and a huge line of cars behind me. At first I was following too closely, miles away from where the accident happened, and he slammed on his brakes. I then started following 3-4 car lengths away. He still would brake suddenly out of nowhere and was still going under the speed limit. This continued for miles. While merging onto a highway – the lane we are in goes straight onto the highway, the speed limit goes from 35 to 55 mph on a very steep hill and another lane to the right merges into us. At the top of the hill he starts slow, then accelerates very quickly, and at the bottom of the hill right where the other lane merges into us and the speed limit is 55 he stops. There was no traffic ahead, no one in front of him, no reason for him to stop. I was still pretty far away from him but my brakes aren’t the best, I had a line of cars that were following me very closely and I was on a very steep hill so I did rear end him. Luckily I was able to brake enough and it didn’t cause too much damage, was maybe going 10-15 mph. When we got to the side of the road, he didn’t speak English very well and just kept saying,

Asked on November 4, 2017 under Accident Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, in the law's eyes, you are 100% at fault.
You write that "who assumes somone's going to stop after accelerating to 55 and the road is clear straight ahead," but by that point, you had seen him "brake suddenly out of nowhere" for "miles"--that is, you had ample warning that he was driving erractically. Furthermore, you evidently knew your brakes had issues ("my brakes weren't the best"), and you obviously could see and knew that you were on a "very steep hill." Adding those facts to the general obligation to maintain such safe following distance that, given driving conditions, speed, the condition of your car, etc., the law would consider you to be at fault for not staying far enough back that you could have stopped in time. He may have been driving badly--but you should still have been able to avoid him. Based on what you write you would be liable.  In the future, either stay *far* back from drivers like this, or pass them if you can, or turn off and take a different route, or stop for coffee to let them get away from you, etc.
He cannot simply make up injuries or car damage to sue you for, however: anything he would sue you for must be supported by evidence.
Since you evidently have insurance, let you insurance handle this--it's what you have insurance for.

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