Most drivers in Georgia and throughout the United States likely assume that fault in a rear-end collision is easy to determine: The driver who rear-ends another vehicle is almost always at fault. While this is true in the majority of rear-end collisions, determining fault in these situations isn’t always clear. Several factors may come into play that can complicate the issue, and a driver who sustains a rear-end collision may bear a portion of the liability for such an accident.
Possible Shared Fault Scenarios
Georgia follows a contributory negligence statute, which means that a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit may still collect compensation for damages even if he or she bears some responsibility for the incident. The jury will assess the facts of the case and assign a “fault percentage” to the plaintiff based on his or her contribution to the damages. The plaintiff will lose a portion of the settlement or case award proportionate to his or her fault percentage. For example, a plaintiff found 20% at fault in a $100,000 lawsuit will lose 20% of the case award, resulting in a total award of $80,000.
There are generally only three scenarios that could lead to split liability for a rear-end collision:
- The vehicle in front had a defect. This could include broken taillights or brake lights or any other defect that would make it difficult for a following driver to see the car ahead. For example, a driver fails to turn on his or her vehicle’s lights while driving at night. Another vehicle strikes the first car because it is hard to see at night. In this situation, the driver in front would likely face at least partial liability for negligently forgetting to engage the car’s lights.
- The driver in front made a very sudden maneuver. A driver in an unfamiliar area may reactively swerve to make a turn or change lanes without looking. A driver who isn’t paying attention to the road or who forgets to signal a lane change could prevent a driver behind from stopping or slowing in time to prevent a collision. In this situation, the jury would have to assess whether the driver in front allowed reasonable time for the driver behind to stop, whether the driver in front signaled appropriately, and whether the driver behind allowed a safe distance between the two vehicles.
- A driver causes a chain reaction of rear-end collisions with multiple vehicles. Imagine a driver who is not paying attention rounds a curve with little visibility only to encounter bumper-to-bumper gridlock without time to stop. The driver strikes the last car in the traffic jam, sending it crashing into the car ahead of it, and so on, affecting multiple vehicles. In this type of situation, the driver behind would likely absorb the lion’s share of the liability for the incident, but if the other drivers did not allow a reasonable amount of room between their own vehicles and the ones in front, they may share the liability as well.
How Do I Prove Fault?
Drivers can prevent rear-end collisions by driving safely, keeping adequate distance between vehicles, and paying close attention to changing road conditions. When rear-end accidents happen, legal representation is a very wise choice. If you have sustained injuries or other damages in a rear-end collision, a personal injury attorney will be a tremendous asset. Your attorney will help you gather the evidence necessary to prove fault in your rear-end collision case. This could include traffic camera footage, eyewitness statements, or crash data collected from the affected vehicles’ computers. The right attorney can help you avoid undue liability and collect compensation for your damages.