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Thanks for the interesting and challenging question.
I'm not sure that your insurance agent is telling you the whole story
here. While it may be your insurance company's policy to say the
driver in the car behind is always at fault for a rear-end, that is
*not the law*.
In fact, the concept of "fault" in traffic accidents isn't really a
part of law in California. See the following for details:
Questions That Need Answering
"Fault" as such isn't codified as law. For one thing, no law could
possibly anticipate all the possible variations in accidents. For
another, "fault" is a matter between *private* parties. The state
cares if you violate a law (including the Vehicle Code), but it
doesn't care who's "at fault" in a private dispute about a car
accident or a "slip and fall" or any other civil wrong, or tort.
Insurance companies offer to settle claims based on their (usually
accurate) estimate of what would probably happen if the case came to
(civil) trial--who would be found at fault, and for how much in
damages. And it's true that, by and large, people who get rear-ended
aren't seen as negligent, while those who rear-end them are. But the
circumstances vary from case to case , and there's also (in
California) a doctrine called "comparative negligence," which lets
juries determine, on the basis of the facts of the particular case,
whether *both* parties were at fault, and to what degree.
So, basically the concept of "comparitive negligence", which has been
recently adopted in California, means that if push came to shove you
(or your insurer) could take this matter to court to get a
determination of how fault for the accident should be apportioned
between the two parties.
Quote: "n. a rule of law applied in accident cases to determine
responsibility and damages based on the negligence of every party
directly involved in the accident. For a simple example, Eddie
Leadfoot, the driver of one automobile, is speeding and Rudy Airhead,
the driver of an oncoming car, has failed to signal and starts to turn
left, incorrectly judging Leadfoot's speed. A crash ensues in which
Airhead is hurt. Airhead's damage recovery will be reduced by the
percentage his failure to judge Leadfoot's speed contributed to or
caused the accident. Most cases are not as simple, and the formulas to
figure out, attribute and compare negligence often make assessment of
damages problematic, difficult, and possibly totally subjective. Not
all states use comparative negligence (California is a fairly recent
convert), and some states still use contributory negligence which
denies recovery to any party whose negligence has added to the cause
of the accident in any way. Contributory negligence is often so unfair
that juries tend to ignore it."
Of course, *proving* that the driver of the Mercedes was partially at
fault might prove very tricky, if not impossible:
Proving Fault in Vehicle Accidents
Quote: "If someone hits you from behind, it is virtually never your
fault, regardless of why you stopped. A basic rule of the road
requires a vehicle to be able to stop safely if traffic is stopped
ahead of it. If it cannot stop safely, the driver is not driving as
safely as the person in front....Keep in mind, however, that even if
you have been rear-ended, in a few circumstances your own carelessness
may reduce your compensation under the rule of 'comparative
negligence.' A common example is when one or both of your brake or
tail lights were out, especially if the accident happened at night.
Another example is when a car had mechanical problems but the driver
failed to do all she could to move it off the road."
The difficulty in proving the other driver shares the blame is
probably why most insurance companies simply choose to behave the way
they do regarding rear-end accidents.
As far as under what situations would the driver that cut in in front of the
rear-ending car be held responsible - that would be up to a judge or
jury to decide, if it ever came to that.
This is perhaps not the most encouraging answer to your problem, but
at least it's let's you know what's what.
Search Strategy (on Google):
* "rear-end" accident "who's at fault" california
* "determining fault" rear-end california
* "comparative negligence" california
* "comparative negligence" rear california
* "comparative negligence" "rear end" california
* "comparative negligence" "rear end" -motorcycle california
* fault accident "codified as law"
* california "vehicle code"
I hope this helps!