When it comes to assigning fault for a car accident rear-ending, it seems cut and dried. Perhaps you have heard the oft-repeated mantra that the driver in the back is always at fault. For the most part, this is correct. In a rear-end collision, the following driver will generally receive a citation for a violation, such as following too closely.
But there are exceptions to this rule that can affect your accident claim.
How Do Insurers Assign Fault in a Rear-End Collision?
When a car accident happens in Georgia, several factors determine who receives a percentage of fault. The traffic laws of the state are one such factor; generally, a driver who has violated the law bears liability for the collision. For instance, if a driver runs a red light and strikes another vehicle that has the right of way, the red-light runner is at fault.
In some accidents, people involved assume fault based on the circumstances of the crash. Many rear-end collisions fall under this category. Generally, insurers and police officers assume the driver in back is at fault in a rear-end collision.
That is because the vast majority of rear-end collisions occur for one of two reasons: following too closely or inattention to the road. Either the back driver was unable to stop in time because his following distance was insufficient, or he was not paying close enough attention to the road and failed to notice the vehicle in front of him stopping or slowing down.
Not all rear-end collisions, however, are the fault of the driver in back. The following section describes a few exceptions to the rule.
When Is the Trailing Driver Not at Fault in a Rear-End Collision?
There are exceptions to the general rule that the trailing driver is always at fault in a rear-end collision. Here are a few of the most common examples:
The Front Driver Makes an Unsafe Lane Change
Suppose you are driving on the highway. You are traveling the speed limit and staying in your lane. Suddenly, another driver passes you; then, the driver cuts in front of you, leaving inches between your bumper and his, and makes a sudden stop. You slam on your brakes, but the other driver did not leave you nearly enough time to react, and you rear-end him.
Technically, this is a rear-end collision, and you are the driver in back. But in this case, fault belongs to the other driver because he made an unsafe lane change and cut off your vehicle.
The Front Driver Makes an Abrupt and Unnecessary Stop
As the trailing driver, you should leave enough room so that if the driver in front of you stops, regardless of the reason, you have time to stop as well. In rare situations, though, a driver makes a stop so abrupt and sudden that even a safe following distance is not sufficient for the trailing driver to avoid a collision.
This maneuver is sometimes done by the front driver in an effort to “punish” a tailgater (also known as brake-checking). But two wrongs do not make a right, and thus there is a lot of gray area in this situation as to who is at fault. You should speak to an attorney as soon as possible if you were involved in a rear-end collision of this nature.
There is a Chain Reaction Collision
If another driver rear-ends you and the collision propels you into the car in front, the fault does not belong to you but instead to the driver who rear-ended you.
The Other Driver’s Brake Lights are Burnt Out
Sometimes, rear-end collisions occur because the driver in front failed to replace his burnt-out taillights. If you rear-end a driver whose taillights are out, we can argue that you would have stopped had you had some type of warning (e.g., had the driver’s taillights been functioning).
A Mechanical Failure Causes a Rear-End Collision
In the unique situation of a mechanical failure, it is possible that the liability belongs to neither the front nor back driver, but to the manufacturer of the vehicle or vehicle component that caused the collision. A common example is brake failure. If you rear-end another vehicle because of faulty brakes, you might be able to pursue the car manufacturer for damages. We can help with this process.
Can Both Parties Share Fault?
Yes. This is a common occurrence. If you were following too closely, but the driver’s brake lights were out, you might share fault. Per Georgia’s comparative fault rule, while you can recover compensation if you were less than 50 percent at fault for the crash, your fault will decrease your settlement (e.g., if you were 20 percent at fault, you can only recover 80 percent of your settlement award).
Get Help Determining Liability for Your Rear-End Collision. Call S. Burke Law.
After a rear-end collision, whether you were the front or back driver, you need a skilled and compassionate attorney who will fight for your rights. I am that lawyer. I am committed to winning you the max compensation for which you are eligible. And because I worked as an insurance adjuster before I opened my law firm, I am prepared for every tactic the insurance company might use to deny or reduce your award.
Come in for a free consultation to talk with us. We will answer all your questions and give you honest answers on what to expect with your case. Call today for an appointment: 404-842-7838.