Rear-end accidents happen all the time, and they can be a pain in the neck, often quite literally. Whiplash, a neck injury caused by rapid movement of the neck back and forth, resembling the cracking of a whip, is a common result of being in a vehicle that is struck from behind. Whiplash is bad enough, but rear-end accidents can cause any number of other injuries, as well, particularly at high speeds. Such accidents are, unfortunately, fairly common. In fact, rear-end crashes happen more often than any other kind of traffic collision. Nearly 30% of all traffic accidents involve a rear-end collision, leading to a considerable number of injuries and deaths every year. In fact, reports indicate that there are about 1.7 million rear-end traffic accidents per year, resulting in about 1,700 fatalities and another 500,000 injuries.
Drivers Usually are the Cause of Rear-End Collisions
When one vehicle strikes another vehicle from behind, the odds are pretty good that the driver of the vehicle hitting the vehicle from the rear has messed up and is at fault. It is not always true, but it is a pretty good bet. Tailgating contributes to more than a third of all traffic collisions, making it an obvious cause of the majority of all rear-end collisions. In a more general sense, federal statistics blame 87% of rear-end accidents on drivers simply not paying attention to traffic and what is in front of them. Other sources identify more specific causes, but many seem to be rooted in driver inattention or error, including:
- Distracted driving, which include cell phone use, eating, looking at things not on the roadway, talking to passengers, or adjusting various control settings in the vehicle, such as the radio or sound system, navigation system, climate control, or other systems
- Failing to pay attention to conditions caused by bad weather, including rain, snow, or ice
- Aggressive driving, which includes tailgating but also tailgating or following too closely to allow for proper braking, cutting in front of another vehicle, speeding, or suddenly hitting the brakes
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Driving while fatigued also is a frequent cause of rear-end accidents.
Fault Can Vary for Rear-End Crashes in Georgia
Under most circumstances, running into another vehicle from behind is going to be the fault of the driver who is doing the running-into. Drivers have a duty to maintain enough distance from the car in front of them to stop or evade should circumstances require that leading vehicle to hit the brakes, and they have a duty to pay enough attention to the road to realize that the car in front of them is braking. It is not always that simple, however, since Georgia law provides for modified comparative negligence, which can limit or even prevent recovery of damages for an accident depending upon a driver’s share of the blame for the accident.
What modified comparative negligence, often referred to as modified comparative fault, means is that to recover for damages from an accident, a driver must be less at fault for the accident than the other driver. If each driver is 50% at fault, neither can recover damages from the other driver. If one driver is 70% at fault and the other driver is 30% at fault, the second driver can recover damages, but those damages are reduced by 30%, the amount of that driver’s comparative negligence or fault. This standard applies in all traffic accidents, including rear-end collisions. That means that if you take some action, such as slamming on the brakes unexpectedly for no apparent reason, and get rear-ended, a court might find you bear at least some proportion of the blame for the accident and are entitled only to a reduced recovery of damages, or perhaps even no recovery, depending upon the level of fault attributed to you.