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Am I Always at Fault if I Hit Another Car From Behind?

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While getting into a car accident is often a scary experience, it is also one that brings forth a lot of confusion. Who are you supposed to talk to? What are you supposed to say? Is something you say going to get you in more trouble? These are normal questions to wonder after getting into an accident, especially after getting into a rear-end accident.

If you have recently been in a rear-end accident, then you may have noticed the way that everybody acted like it was clearly your fault. This is because it is usually the person that struck the vehicle from behind that is at fault. While there are exceptions to this, it is almost a rule that the person who struck the driver from behind is at fault.

To understand why this is, we are going to look at the way that rear-end accidents typically play out. This is based on the concept of the duty of care that we owe each other when driving since most rear-end accidents are clear failures to uphold this duty. Then we’ll look at some situations where the driver who is at fault would be the driver in the front. Finally, we’ll see what happens when blame is shared between both drivers involved in a rear-end collision.

How Do Rear-End Accidents Typically Play Out?

Rear-end accidents most often occur when the driver in front brakes suddenly and the car behind them slams into their rear. This can cause damage to both cars, and either driver may be injured in the process.

Common causes of rear-end accidents include:

  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Failure to pay attention to the road
  • Failure to yield the right-of-way
  • Sudden lane changes
  • Driving too fast for the amount of traffic
  • Driving too fast for the weather conditions
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Driving while fatigued
  • A failure to keep an eye out for road hazards
  • Driving a vehicle with mechanical issues

A shared thread between these common causes of rear-end accidents is that many of them are due to a failure to uphold a duty of care. Whenever we get behind the wheel of a car, we have a duty of care to other drivers on the road. Technically, we owe a duty of care in many other situations; for example, a pedestrian owes a duty of care to drivers that they won’t just run out into the road randomly.

The duty of care that a driver owes is to pay attention to the road, follow the rules, and act accordingly. A failure to do so, such as by speeding or operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, leaves that individual liable for any damages their negligence, recklessness, or carelessness causes.

Most rear-end accidents occur because the person in the car behind failed to uphold their duty of care. Typically this means they were going too fast, staying too close to the car in front of them, or some other form of reckless driving. As such, it is presumed that the driver that rear-ended the vehicle in front of them will be the one at fault. However, there are exceptions to this rule.

When Might a Rear-End Accident be the Driver in Front’s Fault?

While rear-end accidents are mostly found to be the fault of the driver in the rear, this isn’t always the case. There are several different ways in which the driver in the front could be found to be responsible for the accident. These include:

  • When the driver in the front is operating a vehicle with mechanical problems. It is hard for those in the rear to brake in time if the car in front of them has faulty brake lights, for example.
  • When the driver in front makes a sudden and unpredictable maneuver. Most rear-end accidents happen because the individual in the front broke suddenly and the driver in the rear was following too closely; braking suddenly isn’t considered an unpredictable maneuver, but something like suddenly swerving or reversing would be.
  • When the driver in front fails to tend to a driving hazard, for example, they may suffer a blowout but fail to put on their hazard lights.
  • When the accident is due to a chain reaction, say you are rear-ended yourself, and the force of the blow pushes you into the back of the car in front of you. Should the fault for the accident lie with you or with the individual that struck you?

In that last example, it would seem obvious for the fault to be that of the individual that struck you. But what if you were also partly responsible because you were tailgating the car in front of you? To answer this, we need to look at Georgia’s modified comparative negligence laws.

What Happens If the Driver I Hit and I Are Both at Fault?

In Georgia, we use a modified version of the comparative negligence laws that many states have in place. This means that multiple parties can be found to share responsibility for an accident. The party that has less responsibility will be eligible to recover damages.

If both parties are shown to share the same responsibility (50%), then neither party would be able to recover damages because they are both equally responsible. So the damages are each individual’s own responsibility. But if one party is found to be 51% responsible, then the other party can recover damages, even if they are 49% responsible.

What Should I Do Following a Rear-End Accident?

The first things that you should do following a rear-end accident are to capture as much of the accident as possible, as well as seek medical attention. Rear-end accident cases can be quite difficult to win, so it’s important to gather as much evidence of the scene as possible. It is also vital that you reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney that can help you to build a compelling argument as to why you deserve compensation when you were the driver in the rear.

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