The fact that an accident has occurred does not necessarily mean that someone was at fault. As the courts of this state have long recognized: “It is not that in any case negligence can be assumed from the mere fact of the accident and injury…”. Hous., E. & W. T. R. Co. v. Roach, 114 S.W. 418, 422 (1908). Despite this truism, in years past it was frequently presumed that liability was a “slam dunk” in cases involving rear-end collisions. This is, simply put, no longer true.
Juries in most counties are becoming more and more forgiving of such accidents, resulting in findings of non-liability. And the law is on the juries’ side. As the Austin Court of Appeals noted in Stone v. Sulak, 994 S.W.2d 348, 351 (Tex.App.—Austin 1999, no pet): “Though a rear-end collision may be some evidence of negligence of the rear-ending driver, we find no cases holding that a rear-end collision shows the negligence of the rear-ending driver as a matter of law.” The Fort Worth Court of Appeals has more recently described in greater detail the burden of the motorist who is the victim of a rear-end collision:
The mere occurrence of a rear-end collision is some evidence of negligence of the rear-ending driver but is not negligence as a matter of law. The plaintiff must prove specific acts of negligence on the part of the following driver as well as proximate cause. The issue of whether a rear-end collision raises an issue of negligence or establishes it as a matter of law depends on all the facts and circumstances of the particular case. Whether the plaintiff succeeds in proving negligence by a preponderance of the evidence is within the jury’s province to determine.
Campbell v. Perez, 2015 Tex. App. LEXIS 2070, at *10 (App.—Fort Worth 2015, no pet.).
Insurance companies are well aware of the law in this regard, and the willingness of more and more juries to pour out Plaintiffs at trial in rear-end collision cases that might otherwise appear to involve clear-cut liability. When you are involved in such a collision, therefore, it is more important now than ever that you contact experienced lawyers like those at Bailey & Galyen to handle your claims. The insurance companies have lawyers in their corner, and so should you.