Rear-end collisions are a fairly common type of accident. A host of factors, including heavy traffic and distracted driving make rear-end collisions a frequent occurrence. Normally, people assume that if a car is rear-ended, it is automatically the fault of the driver of the colliding car, regardless of the other driver’s behavior. However, this is not always the case — if you have been rear-ended, you should consult with an attorney who can help you navigate the tricky waters of figuring out who is liable.
Who is at fault?
There are several possible reasons why rear-end collisions happen. One of them is that too many drivers follow other vehicles too closely. In South Carolina, as in all states, drivers must maintain a reasonably safe driving distance from other vehicles. In general, drivers should maintain a three or four second minimum distance behind the car ahead of them, assuming ideal conditions. Weather and heavy-traffic are factors that should reasonably extend this distance. Additionally, drivers may be distracted by a host of things like phones, grooming, or other passengers, which greatly increases the likelihood of a collision. Reaction times are drastically reduced when drivers are distracted, and combined with heavy traffic or other factors, distracted driving can easily lead to rear-end collisions. Therefore, it is generally the case that the colliding driver is liable. However, as with most legal issues, there are exceptions.
Exceptions to Liability
There are instances when the colliding driver may not be at fault for the collision. One exception is when a broken taillight is involved. In South Carolina, if the car in front did not have properly-functioning taillights, the colliding car would likely not be at fault. The driver of that car could never be expected to know when the lead car was slowing down. A second exception is where the lead car’s driver is behaving unreasonable and operating the vehicle recklessly, particularly on a busy road with high traffic speeds, and stops abruptly without a reason. This exception may also apply when a car has mechanical issues and is operating erratically, and the driver fails to get out of traffic, or if the cars are on a hill and the lead car rolls backward into the car behind, which was stopped at a reasonable distance.
In the case of a chain reaction crash, if a driver collides with the vehicle in front because it was hit from behind by another vehicle, liability may lie with the car at the end of the chain that caused the first collision. In fact, in South Carolina, that first car will likely be held liable for all of the crashes it caused. However, if a lawsuit is filed, establishing the order of impact will be extremely important. Evidence for order of impact may include eyewitness accounts, including passengers, police reports of the accident and the existence of any traffic violations, the damage to the vehicles, and evidence at the accident scene (e.g. skid marks, vehicle debris, etc.)
The most common injury sustained in rear end collisions is whiplash, which involves the tearing of tendons in the neck. Pain from a whiplash may take several hours to manifest, but may first present as numbness or lack of mobility in the neck. Victims may also suffer other types of injuries that do not immediately present, such as head and back injuries or nerve damage. Those involved in rear-end collisions should monitor their physical well-being and also seek medical attention immediately if they notice any discomfort. These injuries could be serious and lead to extensive medical care, for which you should receive compensation.