4701 Oleander Drive, Suite A
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577

Is There an “Automatic Fault Rule” for Rear-End Collisions in SC?

Is There an “Automatic Fault Rule” for Rear-End Collisions in SC?
Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

Most people automatically presume that the rear driver is at fault in a rear-end collision, but there are situations where a rear-end collision is caused by the lead driver and the lead driver can be held accountable for causing the crash.

In this article, we will cover the basics of determining liability in a rear-end collision, including:

  • Whether there is an automatic fault rule in SC that makes the rear driver liable in every rear-end collision case,
  • When the lead driver can be held liable for causing a rear-end collision,
  • How SC’s comparative negligence rule may affect your case, and
  • How to get compensation for injuries caused by the at-fault driver.


Most people assume that the rear driver is at fault in a rear-end collision, but this is not always the case.

You may think that a crash would be your fault if the car in front of you brakes and you do not brake or take action to avoid a collision. But, what about when the car in front of you “brake checks” you, slamming on brakes when you don’t have time to react?

In most cases, the rear driver is at fault and liable for any damages caused by the accident, but this isn’t because of a “per se” rule that the rear driver is always at fault – it’s just that, in most rear-end collisions, the rear driver was the one who acted negligently.

When a crash is caused by the lead driver’s negligence, the lead driver is at fault and can be sued for damages caused by their negligence…

Exceptions – When the Lead Driver is at Fault for a Rear-End Collision

When is the lead driver at fault?

Fault, as in every car wreck case, is determined by the rules of negligence – which driver violated a traffic law or a duty that they owe to other drivers on the road?

For example, the lead driver is most likely liable when they:

  • “Brake check” a car behind them by slamming on brakes,
  • Merge into another lane in front of another vehicle when there is not enough space,
  • Turn into traffic when there is not enough distance between them and an oncoming vehicle,
  • Reverse into the rear vehicle,
  • Have defective taillights and the rear vehicle did not know that the lead vehicle was braking, or
  • Have a mechanical failure or blown tire and fails to move forward with the normal traffic flow.

The bottom line is that, if the rear driver was driving safely and did not have time to stop because of the lead driver’s actions, the lead driver may be fully – or partially – liable for the crash.

The Comparative Negligence Rule in SC

How can the lead driver be “partially” liable for the crash?

SC follows a “comparative negligence rule” that allows a plaintiff to recover damages if they are up to 50% at fault in the crash.

If the plaintiff was more than 50% at fault, they are barred from recovering any damages. If the plaintiff was 50% or less at fault, their damages are reduced by the percentage of fault determined by the jury (for example, if there is a verdict of $100,000 and the plaintiff is determined to be 20% at fault, the plaintiff will recover $80,000).


A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 29% of auto accidents resulting in severe injuries or death collisions involve rear-end collisions.

In most of these crashes:

  1. The lead driver was driving at a slower speed than the rear vehicle, began to decelerate, or completely stopped, and
  2. The rear driver’s reaction time – their ability to brake or take evasive action – was slowed by distracted driving (which may have been caused by cell phone use, passengers in the vehicle, intoxication, or any activity that reduces the driver’s situational awareness).

Tailgating is another common cause of rear-end collisions – and one way to prove that the rear driver was responsible for the crash.

Injuries Caused by Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions can result in severe injuries or death – according to the Insurance Information Institute, rear-end crashes accounted for 6.8% of all fatal crashes in 2020.

Even low-speed rear-end collisions can result in injuries and damage to vehicles including:

  • Vehicle damage that can range from dents and broken lights to totaling a vehicle (the cost of repairs exceeds the cost of replacing the vehicle),
  • Whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries,
  • Bruising or broken ribs from the seat belt, airbag, or steering wheel,
  • Broken bones,
  • Back pain and headaches, and
  • Delayed-onset injuries.

Holding the At-Fault Driver Accountable After a Rear-End Collision

If you were injured after a rear-end collision, whether you were the lead driver or the rear driver, you will need to prove 1) liability – who was responsible for the accident and 2) damages – the extent of your injuries and medical expenses, property damages, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the crash.

Your auto accident attorney at Axelrod and Associates will investigate your case, gather the evidence that you need to prove liability and damages, and work to get you the maximum compensation you are entitled to under the facts of your case and SC law.


Schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer on the Axelrod team today. Call us at 843-353-3449 or fill out our contact form to set up a free initial consultation about your case.

Recent Posts



Need help? Contact Axelrod & Associates, P.A.

Our Locations

Medios de Comunicación Social:


Request your

The fields marked with * are mandatory.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.