The standard of proof used in car accident cases isn't as high as it is in, say, criminal cases. In those cases, guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. When looking for fault in a car accident, though, clear and convincing evidence is all that is needed. This can lead to some assumptions about fault, which, as will be shown, can be rather problematic when an accident falls outside of the norm.
Let's start by looking at rear-end accidents. Drivers must maintain proper following distance, with enough space to avoid a crash even if the car ahead slams on the brakes. Therefore, in a rear-end accident, it's typically assumed that the trailing car is the one that caused the crash.
In many cases, this is fine, and drivers may have been tailgating or driving too close for the weather conditions. However, what if a driver is pulling out of a driveway, cuts you off, and then slams on the brakes instantly as he or she tries to slide into traffic? You would have stopped perfectly behind the car in front of that driver, but, since he or she cut you off, you ram into the back of the car. This may not be your fault, even though a quick glance at the scene would suggest that you caused the wreck.
Another example is perfectly shown in this dashcam video. The driver with the camera comes to a firm stop when traffic stops in front of him, but then the car directly in front begins to roll back toward him. He honks his horn as it runs into his front bumper.
Exceptions to the Rule
Again, the general rule does work in most cases. Rear-end accidents are more often caused by the trailing cars. However, these examples show that there are exceptions to the rule, so it's important for the authorities to keep an open mind, no matter how cut and dry the case seems.
If you've been accused of causing an accident and you don't believe it was your fault, you definitely need to know your legal rights. Being held responsible can be costly on many levels, especially for commercial drivers, but you have options to protect yourself from an unjust assumption by the police.
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