How is Fault Determined in a Rear End Accident?
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).
In the state of Georgia it is presumed that the driver in the rear car of a rear end collision is at fault because Georgia state law, much like many state laws, requires drivers to always leave a safe amount of space around their car and cars in front, behind, and to the sides. This particular rule is meant to afford drivers adequate space such that if the car in front of them conducts an emergency maneuver or slams on the brakes, they will have enough space to hit their brakes as well without a collision.
Nonetheless, 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, that the accident was unavoidable and not the result of any individual negligence, or that both drivers were partially liable.
Generally speaking the rear driver 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
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.
For example: 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, the person who is suing, is still able to recover damages even if they were partially liable for causing the car accident. However, they cannot be more than 50% at fault or 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 modified comparative fault law in the state of Georgia, combined with the aforementioned 50% bar rule, the lead driver would still be able to recover damages because the courts found the lead driver less than 50% at fault. However, the rear driver in this example was found more than 50% at fault and therefore would not be able to recover damages.
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 there must always be somebody liable in such car accidents. The short answer is “yes” but of course things get slightly more complicated than this in the real world. As we pointed out at the beginning of this article, in most cases the rear driver is presumed at fault until they can overcome this presumption by providing evidence to the contrary.
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.
Were You Rear Ended By Another Driver in Georgia?
If you have been injured in a rear end car accident in the state of Georgia, it is imperative that you discuss your legal rights with a car accident attorney as quickly as possible. You must determine fault after a car accident as soon as possible and this can be very complicated. As such it is critical for you to have an experienced lawyer by your side who can represent you effectively and fight for the compensation to which you are legally entitled. The Bader Law Firm has extensive experience in car accident claims. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 678-562-5595.