How is this for a hypothetical: if an animal runs in front of a car and the cars stops short and is rear-ended, who is responsible for this accident?
First, you have to understand fault in California. Basically, it is a pie that can be split any number of ways. The total fault is 100% and can be divided up as to both parties or all on one party. You can read more here.
Second, the general rule is that the person in the back is at fault. Again, it is just a general rule.
In this case, the person in front had time to stop when an animal ran out in front of it. The California Vehicle code says all drivers must maintain a safe distance. If the car in front stopped safely, the car behind should be able to stop safely as well. If that car cannot, then the presumption is that the car in the back was following too closely or driving too fast for conditions or not paying attention.
That is your basic premise. More to come in future posts!