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Rear End Collisions

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The mere happening of a rear end collision is not enough to show negligence.

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By Attorney Jeffrey B. Engle, Personal Injury Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

The driver of a motor vehicle is prohibited from following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.  However, the mere happening of arear-end collision does not constitute negligence as a matter of law on the part of the operator of the rear vehicle; rather, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove such negligence.  It is for the jury to determine from the evidence whether the defendant has been following the plaintiff's vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent under all the circumstances.  

A motorist is not bound to anticipate the negligence of the motorist in front of him or her.  However, where two persons are driving vehicles in the same direction on a street, it is the duty of the driver of the rear one to be vigilant and ordinarily to have the car under such control as to be able to prevent a rear-end collision in the event that the front vehicle suddenly stops.  A motorist on an expressway must proceed at a reasonably safe distance behind the vehicle ahead of him or her, that is, a distance that will permit the motorist under the circumstances to avoid a sudden and abrupt stop and a telescopic collision in the rear.  

If the motorist fails to do so, and if this necessitates a sudden stop that contributes to a collision between his or her vehicle and a following vehicle, a jury may properly find the driver contributorily negligent.  However, a motorist in the midst of a line of rapidly moving vehicles owes a duty to an automobile following, under certain circumstances, an abrupt stop by the forward vehicle; allowing neither sufficient time nor sufficient distance for a vehicle in the rear to stop may render the driver of the forward vehicle negligent or contributorily negligent.

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