A common assumption is that if someone rear-ended another vehicle, that driver is at fault and must be held responsible for any damages. However, that’s not always the case. The front driver may be at fault, or both parties have some of the fault. Understanding what can cause rear-ends and the evidence needed to prove the fault is crucial to pursuing damages.
When Is it Possible for the Rear Driver to Not Be Fully Responsible for a Rear-End Collision?
In many cases, the rear driver is considered to be at fault because they were driving too closely to the vehicle in front of them (known as tailgating) or were speeding or driving negligently. But there are situations where the driver in front may have part or all the responsibility for the accident.
Here are some scenarios that could shift some blame.
- The driver in front was driving in reverse.
- The front car’s tail lights and/or brake lights weren’t working.
- The driver didn’t use their hazard lights to indicate a problem to other drivers.
- The driver in front stopped for no reason or slowed to make a turn, then didn’t turn.
These aren’t guaranteed to move all the blame from the driver following, but they can affect damage claims.
What Evidence Can Help Prove Fault in a Rear-End Car Accident?
Several types of evidence can help determine fault in these cases. Eyewitness accounts, traffic or security camera videos that caught the accident, even the level of damage to the vehicles and where the debris landed can help experts determine what was at the root of the accident.
Other factors could involve one or both drivers being distracted while driving (using phones, adjusting the dashboard, etc.). This is something eyewitnesses may have noticed, or phone records may show the phone in use at the time of the accident. While it’s not illegal in North Carolina to talk on a phone while driving (except for drivers under 18), it is illegal to use the phone to read or type text messages and emails. If the phone’s history indicates that it was happening during the accident, that driver may be assigned more blame.
If one of the drivers appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, some tests can be used as evidence.
In some cases, especially if there was considerable physical injury or property damage, experts may be called in who can reconstruct the accident and provide a recommendation for who was most at fault.
It should also be noted that North Carolina has a three-year statute of limitations on filing claims for car accidents. Later than that, and the claim will likely be dismissed.
How Does North Carolina Assess Negligence in Car Accidents?
One thing many people don’t understand about personal injury law in North Carolina is how the state legally assigns fault. There are three types of comparative negligence used in U.S. courts.
- Contributory negligence. This form is the least-used version of comparative negligence. It says that if the injured party is found to be even just 1% at fault for the accident, they can’t file for damages.
- Modified comparative negligence. This is the most-used version of comparative negligence. It says that if the injured party is 50% or 51% at fault (the percentage varies state by state), they can’t receive any damages. If they were 49% or 50% at fault, they can. However, the amount of damages is reduced by the percentage of fault.
- Pure comparative negligence. This says that if the injured person is 99% liable for the accident that caused their injury, they can still receive 1% of the damages.
North Carolina uses pure contributory negligence. This means the other driver will be motivated to shift any blame onto you at all to avoid paying any damages. That’s why it’s highly advisable to work with an experienced rear-end collision attorney who knows what tactics the other side will use and how to search for the evidence needed to help the case.
What Should I Do if I Was in a Rear-End Car Accident in North Carolina?
First of all, if you’re physically able, get the names, contact information, and insurance information from the other driver. Don’t have any other conversation other than this. Then, call the police to file a police report. If you can, collect the names and contact info for any eyewitnesses.
It’s vital that you see a doctor as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. There are injuries that don’t present symptoms right away, and leaving them untreated can cause them to worsen and even become life-threatening.
After seeing a doctor, call Brent Adams & Associates at 910-249-6891 for a free consultation. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable personal accident attorneys can walk you through your case and help develop the best approach for filing claims.
As noted before, it’s vital that you don’t discuss the accident with the other driver other than exchanging contact and insurance information. If their attorney or insurance representative tries to contact you, don’t speak with them. They want to shift as much of the blame as possible onto you to avoid paying out on behalf of their client. They might try to get you to say something that could be interpreted as taking the blame, or they could ask you to accept a settlement that may be much lower than you’re eligible for. Forward all communications to your lawyer.