Rear-End Collision Accidents
Rear end collisions are among the most common car crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 28 percent of crashes are rear end collisions. Having won defense verdicts in many such cases during a decade of insurance defense practice, we take nothing for granted. Knowing how things can go wrong, Atlanta injury lawyer Ken Shigley has successfully litigated many injury and death cases involving rear end collision accidents.
In almost all rear end collisions, a police officer cites the driver of the rear vehicle for “following too closely under Georgia Code Section 40-6-49, which in part says, “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 and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.” The statute goes on at length to require “leaving sufficient space” between vehicles to avoid danger.
There are many factors your Georgia attorney may evaluate as contributing factors in rear end collisions. Some of the most common include:
- Driver distraction. Distractions from texting, cell phone usage, eating, putting on makeup, looking into the back seat to check on young children, and looking away from the road are frequent causes of driver distraction. Recently we litigated a case in which a truck driver was on his cell phone talking with someone in South America for 25 minutes before he ran over a line of stopped traffic, never noticing the stopped cars and trucks before he hit them.
- Weather conditions. Drivers who fail to adjust their speed for the effects of rain, snow, slush, ice, high winds, and fog are more likely to strike another vehicle. For large commercial trucks, there is a special rule on this. “Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated.” 49 C.F.R. § 392.14. The standard that is taught to truck drivers in the Commercial Driver’s License Manual, Section 2.6.2, is that, “Reduce speed by about one-third (e.g., slow from 55 to about 35 mph) on a wet road. On packed snow, reduce speed by a half, or more. If the surface is icy, reduce speed to a crawl and stop driving as soon as you can safely do so.”
- Alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and drugs significantly impair a driver's reflexes, even if not actually drunk. A classmate of my daughter was killed when an intoxicated tractor trailer driver rear-ended her family’s car on an interstate highway in Alabama. We have litigated a case in which a truck driver fell asleep after having taken Ambien and ran over a line of stopped traffic without braking.
- Construction areas. We have handled numerous cases in which rear end collisions happened in construction zones on Georgia’s interstate highways. A tired, distracted or inattentive driver often fails to slow or stop with traffic in construction zones.
- Road defects. Potholes, stop signs bent or obscured by foliage, and non-working traffic signals can all contribute to a rear-end collision.
- Children, animals, and pedestrians . Balls bouncing into the street, animals and children darting into the street and jaywalking pedestrians can all force a driver to stop unexpectedly, leading to a rear end collision.
- Police and radar guns. Drivers who are speeding may suddenly stop or slow when they see police cars on the side of the road or pickup police radar on radar detectors.
- Accidents. It is common for inattentive drivers to collide with vehicles that have stopped or slowed due to another accident ahead.
- Faulty brake lights. When a leading vehicle slows or stops without adequately functioning brake lights, a following driver may fail to stop, resulting in a collision.
- Vehicle breakdowns . Vehicles that break down in the lane of traffic, or close to the traffic lanes, are major distractions. Large commercial trucks that stop on the side of the road are required to immediately activate hazard flashers and promptly put out reflective triangles or flares.
Injuries caused by rear end collision can range from transient whiplash injuries to serious neck and back injuries, herniated discs, vertebral fractures, traumatic brain injuries and wrongful death.
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