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Laws Around Rear End Car Accidents

Rear end collisions are common car wrecks in Aiken and surrounding areas. Many people have wrong assumptions about how these cases are legally analyzed. For example, they think the car behind is “always” at fault, when that’s not the case. Instead, rear end collisions are analyzed according to fault rules, like other motor vehicle wrecks. 

Contact Surasky Law if you were hurt in a rear end accident. Below, we provide an overview of some of the laws related to these cases. We are happy to delve into greater detail about your accident in a free consultation. 

Law of Negligence 

Most accident claims are based on a negligence theory. To prevail in a personal injury case, you need to show: 

  1. A driver owed you a duty of care; 

  2. The driver breached that duty; 

  3. You suffered damages; and 

  4. The defendant caused your damages. 

Often, the second element is the only one in dispute. No one really argues that you suffered damages, which include bodily injuries and car damage. Also, no one really disputes that the violent collision is the cause of your damages. 

What’s in dispute is whether a driver breached their duty of care. All motorists must drive as a reasonably careful person would. This doesn’t mean they have to be perfect, but they can’t be careless, either. 

Some examples of breaching a duty of care include: 

  • Tailgating 

  • Speeding 

  • Driving while distracted 

  • Texting and driving 

  • Drunk or impaired driving 

  • Jumping out in front of another car 

  • Brake checking 

Careful drivers should follow the rules of the road and be careful. They must also be considerate to other vehicles around them. 

Misconceptions about Rear End Collisions 

In the typical rear-end collision, one car is behind another. The car in the back slams into the rear fender of the car in front. 

In most rear end collisions, the driver of the car in the back is at fault because they were following too closely or not paying attention and could not brake in time. Other motorists are going so fast that they don’t have enough room to come to a complete stop. 

In these situations, the driver of the car behind was negligent and, therefore, at fault. But they aren’t always at fault. It’s sometimes possible for the driver of the car up ahead to be responsible for the accident. 

For example, the driver up ahead might hit their brakes for no reason. The car following crashes into them even though they left sufficient space. Or the driver up ahead makes an illegal lane change and jumps immediately in front of the car behind it. In this example, there is not enough time for the rear vehicle to stop, so the driver of the car in front is to blame. 

Comparative Negligence 

It’s possible that both drivers are to blame. This is called contributory negligence or comparative negligence. Lawyers use the terms interchangeably. 

South Carolina has a comparative negligence statute for car accidents. You can find it at South Carolina Code § 15-1-300, which states a plaintiff’s negligence doesn’t bar their financial recovery unless they are more at fault than the defendant. That means you can be 50% or less—but not 51%. 

Also, your compensation is reduced by your degree of fault. So, if you were 40% to blame, you are only eligible to receive 40% of your damages. If your claim is worth $100,000 but you are 40% to blame, you will receive $60,000 (at most). 

Car Accident Damages 

A car accident victim can seek compensatory damages for: 

  • Financial losses, like car repairs, medical treatment, future medical care, and lost income. We call these specific damages

  • Non-financial losses, including emotional distress, disfigurement, disability, and pain and suffering. We call these general damages

You might also request punitive damages. South Carolina Code § 15-32-520 allows punitive damages if a plaintiff can show with clear evidence that the defendant acted in a willful, reckless, or wanton manner. 

For example, a drunk driver might have crashed into your car, injuring you. Driving while drunk is an example of wanton or reckless conduct. Another example would be someone who was tailgating as the result of road rage and wanted to hit you. 

South Carolina law also limits the size of a punitive damages award. We can review whether to seek these punitive damages in a case. 

Deadlines for Rear End Car Accidents 

South Carolina Code § 15-3-530 is the relevant statute of limitations. It lays out the maximum amount of time you get to file a lawsuit in South Carolina for a car accident, like a rear end collision. The clock will begin on the day of the accident. 

You get three years to file your lawsuit. Should you go over this deadline, then a judge can dismiss your case with prejudice, and you’ll end up with no money. 

A different statute applies to wrongful death cases. If a loved one died in a rear end accident, then the statutory deadline is two years from the date of the death (not the day of the accident). 

Deadlines are critical. You should reach out to a South Carolina personal injury lawyer to discuss your case immediately. There really is no reason to delay. 

Reporting a Car Accident 

South Carolina Code § 56-5-1270 requires that a motorist submit a Traffic Collision Report to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles within 15 days of the accident. You must report to the DMV if the total property damage is $1,000 or more, or if anyone was injured or killed in the accident. Most rear end collisions must be reported. 

A motorist isn’t required to file if a police officer came to the accident scene to investigate. In those cases, the officer should have filed a report. 

Call Surasky Law for Help with Your Car Wreck Case 

Rear end collisions leave victims with concussions, whiplash, and other serious injuries. It is vital to obtain seasoned legal help to bring a valid compensation claim. For assistance, contact Surasky Law. We know the laws that apply to these wrecks, and we’ll negotiate on your behalf for a generous settlement.  


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