We are taught many things that are not entirely true but are meant to lay the foundation of rules during our formative years. For example, many students are taught in English class in elementary school that they are not allowed to start a sentence with a conjunction. But students learn later on in school that this is not always the case, merely a general rule.
Similarly, students are told at an early age that the rear driver involved in any rear end accident is automatically at fault. This rule lays the foundation for what is generally true (that rear drivers are at fault) but is not necessarily accurate 100% of the time (sometimes there are extenuating circumstances). Keep reading to learn more about the causes and liability for rear-end accidents in Georgia.
Georgia’s Rear-End Accident Fault Laws
In Georgia, it is presumed that the driver in the rear car of a rear-end collision is at fault because state law requires drivers to always leave a safe amount of space around their vehicle and other cars. This particular rule is meant to afford drivers adequate space to perform an emergency maneuver if they need to.
In legal cases, the rear car driver can dispute any claims that they are automatically at fault. Yes, the rear car driver is presumed liable until it is proven otherwise. However, sufficient evidence to the contrary can be provided by showing that:
- The lead driver was responsible for the accident
- The accident was unavoidable and not the result of any individual negligence
- Both drivers were partially liable
The laws regarding fault in Georgia can be complex, and you may have to fight to prove and minimize your percentage of liability if you want a fair settlement. This is where an Atlanta car accident lawyer can help. The average settlement for a rear-end car accident depends on the specifics of each case. Your attorney can show you how to calculate your rear-end settlement.
Your lawyer will also work to help you mitigate the effects of any allegations of shared fault. For example, they will use evidence to show the other driver caused the crash and try to minimize or eliminate any accusation that leaves you legally responsible for the collision and the related expenses.
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Why Rear-End Collisions Occur
The most common reason for rear-end collisions is distracted driving. However, failure to yield and driving too fast for conditions are also common reasons. Most people assume that a rear-end collision is always the fault of the driver in the back. While this is usually true, circumstances could cause another driver to be at fault or partly at fault for the crash.
The incidences of distracted driving have increased considerably since the increased use of cell phones. Handheld cell phone use behind the wheel is against the law, but people still try to text while they are behind the wheel. The result can be devastating when a driver fails to notice that traffic in front has slowed or stopped and then plows into the back of another vehicle.
It is important to understand that distractions can also be mental. Any instance of not entirely focusing on the primary task—driving—could be considered distracted driving. The best way to prevent these accidents is by avoiding doing anything that takes your hands off the wheel, eyes off nearby vehicles, or minds off the road ahead.
How the Lead Driver Can Cause Rear-End Accidents
Generally speaking, the rear driver in a rear-end crash will try to claim that the lead driver contributed to or caused the accident due to negligence. Lead drivers can be guilty of this type of negligence if they, for example:
- Slammed on their brakes without reason, unexpectedly
- Were driving with broken brake lights
- Suddenly drove the car in reverse
- Were driving erratically or recklessly
- Stopped on the road without placing proper notification like flares to indicate to other drivers that they were stopped
- Failed to use turn signals when it was legally required
When a driver is behind another vehicle, they need to maintain a safe distance so they can stop if necessary. Even if the driver in front comes to a quick halt, the driver behind should be far enough away and paying close enough attention that they can stop in time to avoid a collision.
This is especially important when there is rain, snow, or ice on the roadway or other conditions that may make it more difficult to stop quickly. In addition, moving at higher speeds means it takes longer to react, brake, and stop. This is one reason why it is imperative to leave plenty of space when you are in stop-and-go traffic on I-285, I-85, I-75, I-20, I-575, or other congested routes in the state.
Georgia’s Rear-End Accident Law
If a rear driver can prove that they were not entirely at fault for causing a car accident, the courts will apportion fault between any parties involved who contributed negligently to the accident. Here are some hypothetical situations that are examples of how the state’s laws work with regard to rear-end accidents:
Rear-End Accident Example #1
The courts might determine that in a rear-end collision, both drivers acted negligently, but the lead driver was only 20% at fault, and the rear driver was 80% at fault. For example, this might occur if the rear driver followed too closely, but the front driver failed to use a blinker to indicate they were turning.
In this situation, the state of Georgia follows what is called a modified comparative fault theory of negligence. This particular theory of negligence comes with a 50% bar rule. This stipulates that the plaintiff can still recover damages even if they were partially responsible. Therefore, they would not be barred from seeking compensation unless they were 50% or more at fault in the incident.
Rear-End Accident Example #2
If a driver is more than 50% at fault, then that party cannot recover compensation. The other party’s recovery will be reduced in proportion to the percentage at which they were found at fault by the courts.
For instance, imagine for a second that a court in Georgia found the lead driver in a rear-end accident to be 49% at fault. However, they also found the rear driver to be 51% at fault. Under the state’s modified comparative fault law, the lead driver would still be able to recover damages, but the rear driver would not be able to recover damages.
The lead driver would be able to recover reduced damages, though. Their possible recovery would be reduced by their percentage of fault, 49% in this example. This means that they would receive a little over half of the value the court assigned to their damages. As you can see, shared fault can significantly affect the outcome of your car accident case.
Rear-End Accident Example #3
Now let’s make this hypothetical slightly more complex. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the Georgia court found both drivers exactly 50% at fault. In this case, neither driver would be able to recover damages because both were found 50% at fault or higher.
You might wonder if someone is always at fault in a rear-end wreck. The short answer is “yes,” but things can get more complicated. Although the rear driver is presumed at fault in most cases, they can overcome this presumption by providing evidence to the contrary.
In reality, the drivers involved in this type of collision can share fault in many ways and differing percentages. This can alter the outcome of these claims and the potential financial recovery of those hurt in the crash.
Rear-End Accident Example #4
Let us consider for a second that in Georgia, inclement weather caused a rear-end car accident. If the inclement weather caused black ice to form on the road, the rear driver would have to prove that the weather had caused black ice and that the icy conditions caused the car accident.
They would essentially have to argue that the accident was not the result of negligence on behalf of either driver and, therefore, no one is at fault. This argument can be successful should the courts find that the accident was inevitable based on the given circumstances.
The law also requires drivers to slow down, leave extra space, and pay careful attention when the road or weather conditions call for it. If the lead driver can show the other driver was following too closely or speeding based on conditions, they may be fully or partially at fault and liable for the crash. Freezing conditions alone will not absolve them in most cases.
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Injuries Caused by Rear-End Collisions
Injuries are almost inevitable when you are rear-ended by another vehicle. The vehicle’s speed at the time of impact will have a lot to do with the severity of the injuries you suffer. In some cases, your airbag will deploy to protect you from serious head trauma. Still, serious injuries can and do occur. Some of the most common include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Concussions and head wounds
- Broken bones
Whiplash and Rear-End Accidents
Of the many injuries that occur in rear-end collisions, whiplash is likely the most common. Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by a sudden, forceful back and forth motion. For example, whiplash may occur when the neck and head are pushed forward when the vehicle is hit from behind. In addition to whiplash, other head and neck injuries may also occur.
Sometimes the head and body are forced so far forward that the head hits the windshield or another surface inside the car. This can cause a concussion or even a traumatic brain injury when the brain becomes bruised. These injuries are life-threatening and require immediate emergency medical treatment. Without treatment, the victim could suffer brain damage or death.
In some cases, the force of the rear-end collision pushes the vehicle into another car or a stationary object. The occupants can become trapped in the vehicle and may suffer crushing injuries and broken bones.
Contact our Law Firm for Help If You Were Rear Ended by Another Driver in Georgia
You have a limited amount of time to file a claim for damages from a rear-end accident in Georgia. Therefore, it is critical for you to have an experienced Atlanta accident lawyer by your side who can represent you effectively and fight for the compensation to which you are legally entitled.
You can speak to an attorney from Bader Scott Injury Lawyers for free today. We will assess your options for you based on your accident facts.