The “Default” Rule for Fault in Rear End Wrecks
One of the most common types of traffic collisions is the Rear End Collision. A Rear End Collision occurs when the front end of one vehicle impacts the back end of a second vehicle traveling immediately in front of them. The Police tend to cite the driver of the “following” vehicle for being “at fault” on the assumption that the driver was inattentive. Just because because someone got a ticket, however, doesn’t mean the ticket was warranted. It is possible under certain circumstances for the “lead” driver to be responsible for the collision. The question is whether the facts and evidence support that conclusion. Georgia has two Rules of Road which could potentially apply to rear end collisions:
O.C.G.A. §40-6-49 – Following Too Closely
O.C.G.A. §40-6-49 (a) provides “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles, the traffic upon and the condition of the highway”
O.C.G.A. §40-6-123 – Failure to Signal
O.C.G.A. §40-6-123 (c) provides “No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this code section to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is an opportunity to give such signal.”
Fault Depends on Facts
Georgia courts have made it clear that each fact situation is different. In each case, the facts and evidence that are available must be used to determine the party at fault. The issues identified in these code sections are examples of some issues that may be raised if appropriate evidence exists. One cannot raise a claim that a rule was violated without evidence that supports that conclusion. This is why it can be so critical to document as much as possible at the scene of a wreck. Take pictures of damage to your vehicle, any marks left on the road, the final positions, etc. Where you will need to rely on your memory, you should always take steps as quickly as possible to record your recollection of the event in as much detail as possible. The better you document at the front end, the more evidence you will have to work with later.
When it comes to fault for a rear end wreck, the trailing vehicle is not automatically “at fault.” A detailed examination of the facts in view of the applicable law needs to be done in each case to determine who is at fault. The more details you can capture at the scene, the more evidence you have to work with.