Who is At Fault in a Rear-End Accident?
In a rear-end accident in Georgia, there is usually a presumption that the driver behind is at fault for the accident. However, there are certain times when the driver who is blamed for the accident is the one who gets rear-ended.
If you were involved in a rear-end accident and would like to know more about your rights, read on for more information and then reach out to the Butler Law Firm for assistance. We only take on cases that we believe in and that will provide our clients with the financial recovery they need. We prepare all cases as though they are going to trial to maximize our clients’ recovery.
Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents
Rear-end accidents usually occur when the vehicle in front stops and the driver from behind hits the vehicle. To receive compensation for any injuries stemming from the car accident, you must be able to show the other driver violated the rules of the road or acted in a careless manner. Some negligent behaviors that can result in a rear-end accident in Atlanta include:
- Not paying attention to the road
- Driving too fast when there is a lot of traffic
- Not adjusting speed in poor weather
- Not looking out for potential hazards
- Driving a vehicle with equipment problems
- Driving while distracted, impaired or fatigued
- Making sudden lane changes
- Not yielding the right-of-way of other vehicles
The Concept of Negligence — The Key to Proving Fault
When you drive a vehicle, you must follow the established standard of care. The concept is based on what a reasonable person would do to avoid an accident.
Drivers follow the established standard of care by paying attention to the road, looking for hazards, stopping at a reasonable time, and driving the proper speed. This includes adjusting the speed based on road conditions, such as wet pavement. Yielding the right of way, using turn signals, and following at a safe distance are also part of the established standard of care.
Typically, when someone hits another person from behind, he or she has failed to follow the established standard of care. This is usually due to following too closely and not yielding in time. That isn’t always the case, though.
According to Georgia’s Drivers Manual, “a rear-end crash is caused by following another vehicle too closely.” The manual states there must be enough distance for you to safely stop if the driver in front of you suddenly brakes or stops. It recommends leaving at least two seconds of travel distance between you and the other vehicle. You should leave even more space if there is heavy traffic, inclement weather, construction activity or you are driving at night or near a motorcyclist.
Because you are supposed to leave enough time to stop safely in case the person in front of you suddenly stops, you will likely be found at fault if you rear-end someone else.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are a few situations in which the driver in front may be found partially or completely at fault for a rear-end accident, such as when he or she:
- Drives a vehicle with a defect – If the vehicle’s taillights or brake lights are out, the driver from the rear may not be able to tell the driver is braking.
- Makes a sudden maneuver – The driver in front may make a sudden driving maneuver that could not be reasonably anticipated, such as swerving or reversing.
- Does not properly tend to a driving hazard – For example, the driver in front may have a flat tire and may not activate hazard lights or pull over to indicate the problem. This can create a hazard on the roadway and the driver in front may be found at fault.
- Causes a chain reaction of rear-end accidents – If a driver plows into the car in front of him and that car is forced into the next vehicle, the driver in front may be found partially at fault for the second accident because there was not adequate space between vehicles.
These situations are very fact-specific, so it is important to engage the services of an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer to determine if you have a viable claim.
When Is the Driver in Front at Fault?
The driver in front can be found negligent for a variety of reasons. For instance, if the driver reverses suddenly and causes an accident, he or she will be at fault. The same is true if the driver comes to a sudden stop or fails to move out of the way and put on hazard lights after experiencing a flat tire. Also, if the driver’s brake lights are not in working order, he or she can be deemed negligent.
These are just some examples. If you are unsure if a driver is negligent, contact an attorney for help.
What if Both Drivers Are at Fault?
Sometimes, both drivers are at fault during an auto accident. This is called comparative negligence. Some states that have comparative negligence do not allow people to recover damages if they are 1 percent responsible for the accident. However, Georgia uses a modified comparative negligence law with the bar set at 50 percent.
If both parties share 50 percent of the responsibility for the accident, neither person can recover damages. However, if one person is less than 50 percent at fault, he or she can sue for damages. This is true even if one person is 51 percent responsible and the other is 49 percent responsible. The driver who holds 49 percent of the responsibility is eligible for damages.
How Much Can You Recover?
The amount you can recover depends on how much of the fault you share. Damages are reduced based on the percentage of fault. If you are 30 percent at fault for the accident, the amount of damages you can recover is reduced by 30 percent. However, if you are not at fault, your damages are not reduced.
Establishing Fault in a Georgia Rear-End Car Accident
Because Georgia is a comparative negligence state, establishing fault is critical. You cannot simply say that someone else was at fault. You must prove it.
A car accident attorney can investigate the matter for you. This includes gathering police reports, speaking to eyewitnesses, and teaming up with expert witnesses.
Comparative Negligence in Georgia
In some situations, both drivers are found at fault. When this occurs, Georgia’s comparative negligence rules apply. If the accident victim is 50 percent or less at fault for the accident, he or she can still pursue a claim against the other negligent driver. The victim’s level of damages is reduced by his or her own degree of negligence. For example, if the victim sustained $100,000 in damages and is found to be 10 percent at fault, his or her damages would be reduced by $10,000.