During formative years, we are taught many things that are not entirely true, but are meant to lay the foundation of rules. For example: many students are taught in elementary school English that they are not allowed to ever 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 not necessarily accurate 100% of the time (sometimes there are extenuating circumstances).
Georgia’s Rear-End Accident Fault Laws
In the state of 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 car 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 driver of the rear car can rebut any claims that they are automatically at fault. Yes, the driver of the rear car 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 your percentage of liability if you want a 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.
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Why Rear-End Collisions Occur
The most common reason for rear-end collisions is distracted driving. 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, there could be circumstances that 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 then plows into the back of another vehicle.
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 in 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.
Rear-End Accident Law in Georgia
If a rear driver can prove that they were not entirely at fault for causing a car accident, 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.
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 is still able to recover damages even if they were partially responsible.
Rear-End Accident Example #2
If a driver is found to be more than 50% at fault, then their 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. 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. However, the rear driver would not be able to recover damages.
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 at 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 of course things can get more complicated. Although in most cases the rear driver is presumed at fault, they can overcome this presumption by providing evidence to the contrary.
Rear-End Accident Example #4
Let us consider for a second that in the state of 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 provide evidence 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.
Injuries Caused by Rear-End Collisions
Injuries are almost inevitable when you are rear-ended by another vehicle. The speed of the vehicle 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 try 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. 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. 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 crush injuries and broken bones.
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Were You Rear Ended By Another Driver in Georgia?
You’ll have a limited amount of time to file a claim for damages from a rear-end accident in the state of Georgia. 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.