How to Determine Who Is At-Fault for a Rear-End Accident in Georgia

Key Points

  • Georgia is a comparative fault state, which means that each driver’s percentage of fault determines how much compensation they can obtain.
  • While the rear driver is typically at fault in a rear-end accident, the lead driver could be to blame in certain situations.
  • The insurance company may send you a check before you understand the full value of your rear-end accident case, but cashing this check could prevent you from seeking additional compensation in the future.
  • A car accident lawyer can help you understand the value of your case and ensure you receive a full and fair settlement.
Graphic of a rear end collision

The sheer number of drivers on the roads and the fact that drivers are more distracted than ever by cell phones and other electronic devices means rear-end accidents in Georgia and nationwide are, unfortunately, inevitable.

While rear-end accidents are usually thought of as simple fender benders, these accidents can sometimes cause serious injuries.

When an injured party makes a car accident claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, they are often met with some resistance. An insurance company’s main focus is its bottom line. As such, they will do everything in their power to minimize the payout they must make for claims.

Often, insurance companies will downplay the severity of collisions, especially rear-end accidents, that result in legal claims to avoid paying more. Insurance companies view injury claims as a battle for how much money they should give you, the injured party.

Here’s what you should know if you’ve been injured in a rear-end accident.

Determining Who Is the At-Fault Driver

One car rear-ended another

In some states, it doesn’t matter who caused the accident when dealing with injury insurance claims. These states are known as “no-fault” states.

In a no-fault state, if a driver is involved in an accident and is seeking compensation for their injuries, they simply make a claim with their own insurance company to seek coverage. The state of Georgia does not operate this way and instead follows the legal doctrine of “comparative fault.”

In a comparative fault state, fault matters when determining liability and insurance coverage. While it is generally assumed that the rear driver is the negligent one in a rear-end accident, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, the lead driver can also be held liable if their conduct and actions on the road contributed to the accident.

If multiple drivers share fault, then the percentage of how much they were at fault will be considered when determining compensation. For example, if you suffered $100,000 in damages but were 30 percent at fault for causing the accident, you would only be entitled to recover $70,000. If you were 50 percent or more at fault, you could not receive any compensation.

When the Lead Driver Is Considered At-Fault

There are a number of scenarios where the lead driver in a rear-end accident can be considered at-fault.

Some examples include when the lead driver:

  • makes an unsafe turn into a lane,
  • makes an unsafe lane change (cutting off another driver),
  • brakes suddenly without reason,
  • has nonfunctioning brake lights,
  • is under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), or
  • intentionally causes an accident

Incident reports from responding police and medical professionals can help determine if there is reason to believe that the lead driver was at fault in the rear-end accident.

Using a Police Report to Determine Fault

Responding police will often provide an assessment for who is at fault in an accident in their police report. A police report is based on information responding officers were given by the drivers involved and any witnesses who saw the accident take place. The report should also include a diagram drawing and description of how the accident happened as well as any traffic citations that were issued.

Portions of the police report may be admissible as evidence at trial, so the findings can be persuasive to juries. The police officer’s determination of fault, however, is not the permanent nor final judgment. Personal injury attorneys can investigate the accident and prove to a court or insurance company that their client was not the responsible party. Proving negligence can be complicated, but accurately determining each driver’s degree of fault can mean the difference of thousands of dollars in compensation.

Other Evidence That Is Used to Prove Negligence in a Rear-End Accident

Although the cause of your rear-end collision may seem obvious to you and/or the responding police officer, at-fault drivers and their insurance representatives could still try to blame you. They may claim that you slammed on brakes or changed lanes in front of them unexpectedly.

When trying to recover compensation for your injuries, the more evidence you have to back up your claim, the better chance you have to prove that the other driver was negligent.

You or your attorney should begin gathering the evidence you need to prove your case immediately, which may include the following:

  • Photos. If you’re able to do so safely, take pictures of the damage done to vehicles and structures at and around the accident scene, including skid marks on the road. Also take pictures of your own injuries and those of your passengers.
  • Witness statements and testimony. People who were nearby when the accident occurred may be able to provide important details and verify information about the crash.
  • 911 calls. Witnesses who called 911 may have described how the accident occurred, which can be used to prove your claim.
  • Cell phone records. Call logs will show the time of incoming and outgoing calls, which can prove whether the other driver was talking or texting while driving.
  • Mobile data plan records. If the at-fault driver’s cell phone log shows that a large amount of data was being downloaded at the time of the crash, it could help prove the driver was watching a video or reading an email and not paying attention.
  • Black box data. Most modern cars and trucks come equipped with electronic devices that record certain information about the vehicle immediately before and after the crash. This data can include speed, throttle position, brake application, airbag deployment, seatbelt status, steering activity, and other details that can help show exactly what happened.
  • Video. Evidence from nearby traffic, security, or dash cameras can show how the accident happened, which can be crucial in proving causation.
  • Post-accident inspection. Some rear-end collisions are caused by vehicle problems such as bald tires or worn brakes. A mechanical or accident reconstruction expert can examine and analyze the vehicle for negligent maintenance or defects that contributed to the accident.
  • Weather conditions. The road conditions are often affected by the weather. Roads that are wet or icy can contribute to rear-end collisions because it takes longer to stop and can decrease visibility.

It is important to obtain the evidence both in your favor and against you, so that you can properly prepare and litigate a rear-end accident claim. Knowing all the available evidence will also help you make the best choices when filing your claim.

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Common Causes of Rear-End Collisions

Negligent driving is usually the main cause of rear-end collisions in and around Georgia. In other words, the at-fault driver is not totally focused on the road as they should be. The most common forms of negligence include the following:

  • Speeding
  • Texting or talking on the phone while driving
  • Driving under the influence (DUI)
  • Swerving or cutting off other drivers
  • Unsafe driving due to weather conditions
  • Tailgating (following too closely)
  • Road rage
  • Equipment failures from improper maintenance
  • Overtaking, passing, and not leaving enough space

If you are cited for violating Georgia traffic laws after an accident, it can go a long way in proving you were negligent in causing a rear-end collision.

Common Injuries from Rear-end Accidents

Rear-end collisions can result in injuries on all ends of the spectrum—from minor to extremely severe or life-altering.

The following are common injuries that can result from rear-end collisions:

  • Airbag injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Herniated or ruptured disk
  • Wrist, shoulder, hand, and arm injuries
  • Knee and ankle injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Concussions

If you’ve suffered injuries in a rear-end accident, it is important to seek medical care quickly. You should also compile all documentation detailing the extent of your injuries and any current and future medical treatment or care you need. Presenting a complete claim is paramount to getting the highest compensation possible.

The “Real” Cost of a Rear-end Accident

Insurance companies usually view rear-end accidents as minor and will often try to resolve them quickly. Sometimes, insurance companies attempt to do this by promptly sending you a check to “cover your expenses.” But be aware that the amounts these checks include often ignore many important expenses or may not cover the full extent of your injuries.

The “real” cost of a rear-end accident is often quite higher than an insurance company is ready to pay in the beginning. It is important to note that cashing an insurance company check will often preclude you from seeking any additional compensation.

Insurance companies do their best to pay as little as possible. Be sure that any compensation you receive in a rear-end accident considers payment for things such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Significant life changes
  • All medical costs, past and future
  • Lost income
  • Loss of ability to earn future income
  • Vehicle repair expenses
  • Car rental expenses

Keep in mind that insurance companies will also look for any pre-existing condition you might have to offer you less money for your claim. They frequently use things like your age or lifestyle against you. For example, an adjuster may say argue that your injuries are because you’re “old” or because you played sports in high school. You can overcome these obstacles with medical records and testimony from doctors/experts.

If you receive a check from an insurance company offering to pay for your claim, consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you determine if cashing that check is a good idea.

Car accident lawyers will estimate the value of your case based on the severity of your injury and the outcomes of similar cases that have settled or gone to trial. Lawyers may also conduct jury verdict research to help assess case value and find a starting point to begin settlement negotiations.

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How a Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you fully understand your legal options when dealing with a rear-end accident case.

A personal injury attorney should have the experience to deal with the tricky tactics of insurance companies, collect evidence to prove a case, and determine full and fair compensation that will make you whole after an accident.

Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

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