We tell children and young adults a variety of things that aren’t always the whole truth, but we tell them those things because they make it easier to understand certain rules later in life. For example, we tell children that sentences should never begin with a conjunction, but that’s not a strict rule – it’s just a guideline. As kids age, we tell them a variety of half-truths meant to illustrate a point. As they reach driving age, we tell them that rear end accidents are caused by the driver behind the one that got hit, because that driver didn’t leave enough room, but that’s not always the case; in fact, there are a variety of reasons why the driver in back isn’t to blame for an accident.
Georgia State Law
Georgia state law presumes the rear driver is at fault when a rear end accident occurs, because they should have left enough space between them and the car in front so that they could stop in time, but failed to do so. In Georgia, drivers are obligated to leave a safe distance between themselves and the car in front of them so that if any driver is required to stop suddenly, the rear driver will, in theory, have plenty of time to stop without hitting the driver in front.
Legally, the rear driver has the option of arguing that they were not at fault for the rear end accident. The rear driver may choose to argue against the presumption of liability, and their case may or may not be proven (i.e., the rear driver may be found not at fault due to some extenuating circumstances). Evidence may suggest that the lead driver is at fault for the accident, that the accident could not have been avoided by one or both parties, that neither parties were exhibiting any negligence, or that both drivers were at fault to some extent.
The Negligent Driver
Although they may be entirely responsible for the accident, nobody wants to be blamed and held liable for an accident and all of the damage caused because of it, so the rear driver will usually try to argue that the driver in front was at least partially at fault for the accident, that they hold some responsibility and liability for the accident. The driver in front can be held responsible for an accident if they were driving negligently. Some examples of this type of driving that would make a lead driver deemed negligent or liable include:
- Failing to use turn signals, or not having functioning signals
- Slamming on brakes unexpectedly, without warning or reason
- Driving without functioning brake lights
- Driving erratically or otherwise recklessly (including suddenly stopping without notice or driving the car in reverse)
As long as the rear driver is able to successfully prove that they weren’t solely responsible for the accident, a judge or jury will find both parties partially to blame for their negligent actions that caused the accident.
Modified Comparative Fault Theory
The courts may decide that while both drivers exhibited negligence, the rear driver was 75 percent at fault, while the forward driver was 25 percent at fault. This is called “modified comparative fault theory,” and it comes with a 50 percent rule, which means that if a driver is found more than 50 percent at fault, they cannot recover damages. Drivers found 50 percent or less at fault may recover damages, although they may not be awarded any. If, however, both parties are found 50 percent at fault, neither driver can recover damages, because they’re equally to blame (i.e., their negligence equally contributed to the accident).
But does one or both of the parties always have to be found liable? Is there always an element of negligence in a car accident? Usually, there is, but sometimes, there are pieces of the puzzle, extenuating circumstances – hazards, weather, and natural disasters, for example – that play a part or are the whole reason for the accident. In cases such as this, it is incumbent upon the rear driver (and their attorney) to prove that weather (for example) caused black ice to form on the road, which made the accident unavoidable. In that example, no one may be found at fault – accidents sometimes happen that have nothing to do with either driver’s negligence. In short, the law does make allowances for extenuating circumstances.
What To Do if You Had a Rear End Accident
If you have been involved in an accident where you rear ended or were rear ended by someone (i.e., if you were hit or hit someone from behind), you need to think about hiring an attorney to fight for what you’re due, so that you get the compensation you deserve. You need an experienced attorney by your side in court or in negotiations fighting for your rights. Call (404) 495-5250 to speak with the attorneys at Council & Associates, LLC who care about working hard for you and what you deserve. When you call, the attorney will listen to your story, then tell you about your rights and options; together, you can discuss your preferences and needs and come to an agreement on the next steps you’d like to take. They will work on contingency, too, which means that they don’t get paid unless and until you do, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Why not call today?