Rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of car accident in South Carolina and throughout the country. For instance, between 2012 and 2014, almost half of all traffic crashes in the U.S. were rear-end crashes, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
In most cases, the negligence of the rear driver causes the crash. However, “most” does not mean all. In some cases, the front driver is to blame.
If you recently rear-ended another driver in a crash, you should immediately contact an experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney who knows how to investigate these types of accidents. The attorney’s investigation may reveal that, in fact, the front driver’s negligence led to the accident and your injuries.
When the Rear Driver May Be At Fault
A rear-end collision refers to a crash in which the front of one vehicle collides with the rear of another vehicle. A driver involved in such a crash may be the driver of the striking vehicle, the struck vehicle or, in a multi-car accident, one of the other vehicles involved in the “pile-up.”
One of the leading causes of these accidents is following too closely, or tailgating. This is why the driver in the rear often is to blame for a rear-end accident. The driver may follow too closely because the driver is speeding, driving while distracted by texting or talking on a cell phone or driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
South Carolina law prohibits drivers from following another vehicle more closely than is “reasonable and prudent.” The driver must pay attention to the speed of the vehicles, surrounding traffic and road conditions in order to determine what is reasonable under the circumstances. If a driver follows another car, or tailgates, then the driver can actually get ticketed in South Carolina and get four points added to his or her driving record. If a driver violates this law and causes an accident, the traffic violation can also serve as evidence of negligence if the front driver brings a personal injury claim.
When the Front Driver May Be At Fault
If you were recently involved in a crash as the rear driver, you should seek help from an attorney right away and ask the attorney to investigate and analyze all aspects of the crash. As part of that investigation, your lawyer should examine evidence such as:
- Photos from the accident scene
- Tire marks and debris around the scene
- Any video camera footage available
- Eyewitness statements
- Cell phone records
- Electronic data recorder (“black box”) information.
More often than you might think, this evidence reveals that the front driver was actually at fault for a crash rather than the driver in the rear. For example, the evidence may reveal that the front driver caused the crash because he or she:
- Drove without working rear brake lights
- Stopped suddenly (or stopped when no reasonable driver would have expected it)
- Came to a sudden halt or slowed down due to a mechanical failure or flat tire, without giving any warning through use of hazard lights or other means
- Hit the brakes sharply (some drivers actually do this to ward off a driver whom they believe is following too closely)
- Turned or changed lanes without signaling
- Drifted across lanes or lost control in a curve or turn
- Backed into the rear car.
For all of those reasons, you should never automatically assume that you are at fault after a rear-end car accident if you were the driver in the rear. Instead, you may be eligible to recover compensation due to the front driver’s negligence.
Shared Negligence in a Rear-End Accident in South Carolina
Sometimes, both drivers in a rear-end accident share blame for the crash. For example, the front driver may stop in the middle of the road. Meanwhile, because he or she is talking on the phone, changing the radio or typing out a text message, the driver in the rear may not see the front driver and plow right into the stopped vehicle.
South Carolina uses a modified comparative negligence system to determine whether and how much a person can recover in damages in these situations. Here’s how it works: A percentage of fault must be assigned to each driver. The amount of damages which a driver can recover is then reduced according to the percentage of fault assigned to that driver.
For example, let’s say a driver sustains $100,000 in damages in a car accident. If the driver is 25 percent at fault, then the driver’s damages would be reduced by 25 percent. So, the most which the driver could obtain in a damages claim would be $75,000.
However, under South Carolina law, a driver’s fault cannot exceed the fault of all other parties involved in the crash. If it does, the driver cannot recover anything.
So, let’s say two drivers are involved in a crash, and both are equally at fault. One of those drivers could bring a claim against the other driver and still recover damages. However, the driver’s financial recovery would be cut in half. On the other hand, if the driver was determined to be 51 percent at fault, the driver could not recover damages.
Get Help from an Experienced South Carolina Rear-End Accident Attorney
As you can see, there is often more than meets the eye in a rear-end collision. You should never assume that you cannot recover anything in a car accident claim simply because you were the rear driver who struck the driver in front. In fact, the front driver may be more at fault than you, and you may be eligible to recover much-needed compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and other losses.
To learn more about your rights and options, contact The Jeffcoat Firm. We can provide a free consultation and discuss how we can pursue all compensation you are due after a rear-end crash in South Carolina. Call or reach us online today.