Getting rear-ended can be both frustrating and painful, not just at the time of the crash, but also for quite a while after the accident.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the driver in the rear isn’t always 100% responsible for a rear-end collision. Under certain circumstances, the leading driver may share a portion of the blame for the crash.
Here’s what you should know about South Dakota rear-end collisions:
Common Reasons Why Rear-End Collisions Occur
Some of the most common reasons for rear-end collisions include:
- Driver inattention
- Distracted driving
- Panic stops
- Reduced traction as a result of wet weather or worn pavement
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, rear-end collisions account for 28% of all car accidents, but just 6% of fatal wrecks. This makes rear-end collisions one of the most common types of car accidents in the U.S.
The Duty of Care
The driver in the rear isn’t automatically 100% responsible for a rear-end collision. If you’ve been rear-ended, here’s what you need to prove in order to determine liability:
- The person who rear-ended you had a duty to exercise care while operating a motor vehicle.
- The other driver breached that duty.
- The other driver’s breach of duty caused the crash.
- As a result of the crash, you were left with actual damages, such as bodily injury or property damage.
A driver might breach their duty of care by neglecting to do any of the following:
- Give the road their proper attention and stay alert for hazards
- Stop within a reasonable amount of time
- Drive at a reasonable speed (not only based on the posted speed limit but also on the road conditions at the time)
- Maintain control of the vehicle
- Yield the right of way
- Utilize turn signal(s)
- Follow at a safe distance
Finding Fault for a Rear-End Collision
The driver who rear-ends another car will almost always share a portion of the blame for the accident since all drivers have a duty to follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
Everyone on the road has this duty because it is sometimes necessary to stop or slow down suddenly and unexpectedly in order to avoid stopped or slowed traffic, a hazard in the road, or something else.
However, it is also possible for the leading driver to share a portion of the blame for the crash. The leading driver may be partially at fault for doing any of the following:
- Suddenly reversing
- Making an unexpected stop to turn and then doesn’t execute the turn
- Having brake lights that don’t function properly
- Getting a flat tire but failing to pull over or engage the car’s hazard signals
If you were rear-ended while doing any of the aforementioned behaviors, your liability will hinge on how much your actions contributed to the crash.
South Dakota’s Negligence Rule
South Dakota has its own unique rules regarding negligence. The state’s laws are a combination of comparative and contributory negligence, commonly referred to as “slight-gross negligence.”
As long as your contribution to the accident is considered “slight,” then you may be able to recover damages for the crash. On the flip side, the other driver’s responsibility for the wreck must be “gross” (or significant) in order to be held liable.
If you are only slightly at fault for the crash, you should be able to recover damages. However, the amount of compensation you receive will be reduced by your degree of fault.
Similarly, you may be completely barred from recovering compensation if you are determined to be more than “slightly” at fault for the crash.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, our lawyers at Whiting Hagg & Dorsey, LLP may be able to help you receive the settlement you deserve. Give us a call at (605) 519-6136 or fill out an online contact form.