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  1. #1

    Default Rear-Ending a Disabled Car, Stopped in a Traffic Lane

    My question involves an injury that occurred in the state of: Washington D.C.

    I have an interesting rear-end collision situation:

    I was driving down Interstate-395 at night at the proper speed and distance from traffic ahead of me when the SUV in front of me suddenly and unexpectedly swerved into the leftmost lane of the 5-lane highway. My attention was grabbed by this most unexpected and potentially dangerous action, and as the SUV passed into the left lane I shortly after became aware of another vehicle that was at a complete stop in my own lane, which the SUV had very narrowly avoided. I was unable to see the car at all prior to the SUV changing lanes as the larger vehicle had blocked my view of the much smaller Mercury vehicle. I immediately hit my brakes and skidded into the Mercury 4-door vehicle. Airbags were not deployed in either vehicle. Although skeptical to get out of the car in the middle of the 5-lane highway I eventually found a quick moment where traffic had completely ceased. I promptly ran to the Mercury and asked the two girls inside if they were okay. The passenger responded that they were fine and had a flat tire. The driver was on the phone and may have been during the accident as well. I told them that the both of us should get onto the shoulder of the highway to avoid any other possible accidents but they ignored me. It is unclear why the driver did not pull over to the shoulder upon first experiencing the flat tire. She later admitted to being in that position for more than 5 minutes.

    I returned to my vehicle and immediately drove it onto the right shoulder of the road. When I looked back I saw the two girls exiting their vehicle in a panic and scampering across the highway on foot! Fearing for their safety I yelled to them out my window to get back in their car but they hopped over the median and across the opposite side of the highway, at which point I lost sight of them in the dark. In the time before police arrived numerous other cars skidded down the highway also narrowly missing the now abandoned Mercury vehicle. Police arrived about 5 minutes later. One officer immediately exited his vehicle and entered the driver’s seat of the abandoned Mercury, driving it to the right shoulder and away from traffic. A second officer arrived shortly after with the driver and passenger of the Mercury in his vehicle.

    The Proximate Cause of the accident in my opinion was the driver’s panicked decisions and failure to adhere to safety procedures by remaining in the middle of the highway instead of making her way to a breakdown lane, shoulder or exit. This was the most immediate action taken by police upon arrival. By abandoning the vehicle the driver increased the risk of additional accidents by eliminating any opportunity for the car to be removed from the road until the police officer arrived on the scene.

    The driver, by parking in the middle of the interstate when it was possible to drive to the right-hand side of the roadway, was in blatant violation of the D.C. Code:

    “Minimum Speed Limit:
    I. No person shall drive a vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. D.C. Code '40-703(a) and CDCR 18-22-2200.10
    II. A person, driving at less than the normal speed of traffic, shall drive in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. '40-703(a) and CDCR 18-22-2201.3”

    Insurance has found both parties partially liable and now the driver and passenger are claiming injury as well. Is there any way I can be absolved of responsibility for this? My insurance company even admitted that I could not reasonably have been expected to stop in time and despite the general rule of thumb for rear-end collisions, I was doing everything properly, maintaining distance, adhering to the speed limit, etc. Contrarily, the other driver acted with gross negligence and endangered the lives of others.

    Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: Rear-End Collision: Front Driver - Gross Negligence

    very simply put: you apparently could not stop before hitting an object in the road. That means you were driving faster than was prudent and that makes you as much, if not more responsible for the collision.

    I was driving down Interstate-395 at night at the proper speed and distance from traffic ahead
    obviously not a true statement witnessed by the fact that you did hit the car in the lane. If you had been driving the proper distance, you would have either stopped before hitting it or changed lanes to avoid it.

    to support this:

    how many other cars hit the car as it sat in the road?

    you make no mention of any so I would guess that the other drivers were in fact not driving too fast to avoid the car. You were.

    and why would you suggest they get back into their car? If they were not going to move it, most assuredly the worst place for them to be was in their car. I mean, who knows. somebody might have been driving to fast to be able to stop before hitting their car....

    Oh, never mind.

    Your insurance company nor the other party's insurance company's opinion has any binding action on who is at fault. Your insurance company will provide a lawyer for you for what appears to be the up and coming lawsuit.

    btw: they were not driving too slowly so the statute you cited would not be the proper one for their situation.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Rear-End Collision: Front Driver - Gross Negligence

    I'm not trying to be antagonistic at all so please don't take any of this the wrong way. I enjoy seeing both sides of the story.

    No other cars hit the stopped vehicle because they were all swerving into other lanes, which can be drastically more dangerous and cause a much worse accident. Had the SUV in front of me not done this he would NOT have been able to stop in time either, nor would the 10 other cars I witnessed screeching down the highway afterward which did the same thing.

    I was driving the proper distance from the car in front of me but the stopped vehicle essentially appeared out of thin air. If you are going 50MPH and a plane suddenly fell out of the sky and landed 5 car lengths in front of you, would you have enough time to stop? Almost certainly not. Anyway, you get my point. Assuming the stopped vehicle did not exist and the SUV driver slammed on his or her brakes and screeched to a stop, I certainly would have had time to apply my brakes in time to avoid hitting the vehicle, as it would have ended up a couple hundred feet further down the road before coming to a full stop. But the situation was akin to swiftly pulling off a blindfold (i.e. the SUV blocking my view of the stopped vehicle) and asking me to react immediately to an unexpectedly and unjustifiably stopped vehicle.

    I'm not sure I understand how the other driver was not driving too slowly and why that statute wouldn't apply. The car was at a dead stop...for over 5 minutes...in the center of the interstate...and the car was in drivable condition. How much slower can one possibly drive than that? You say "if they were not going to move it," which is precisely my point - they should have moved it. The law requires them to do so and there was no legitimate reason for them not to do so. I was able to within 10 seconds of returning to my car - why couldn't they within a 5 minute span? Not to mention there was a left-side shoulder as well. I realize this doesn't contribute to the initial accident but it is indicative of their panicked state and decision-making. Plus the driver was on the phone and did not have her hazards on at the time. I'm not sure how much more negligent you can be than that.

    I also don't see how it is safer for them to be on foot in the middle of the interstate than in their car in the middle of the interstate. Had I hit them on foot versus in their car they would assuredly be dead!

    Again - not trying to be antagonistic at all so don't take this the wrong way, but I don't understand this observation. Just merely presenting things from my perspective. I appreciate any insight you may have.

    Thanks

    Just a quick addendum to my last post - some states are starting to amend their laws regarding rear-end collisions, removing the "rear driver is always at fault" logic for extenuating circumstances. See the following cases in South Dakota and New York:

    http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/25/2543.asp
    http://www.nylegalupdate.com/2008/01...nd-collis.html

    Legal resource Nolo.com also notes:
    "If the injured person was where he or she was not supposed to be, or somewhere he or she should have expected the kind of activity which caused the accident, the person who caused the accident might not be liable because that person had no "duty" to be careful toward the injured person."

    http://www.nolo.com/index.html

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Rear-End Collision: Front Driver - Gross Negligence

    I understand your points and yes, being faced in the situation you were, an accident is not totally unexpected, even when trying to drive prudently. Traffic now-a-days does tend to force you to drive too closely to the vehicle in front of you. That is not an excuse though.

    the other driver was not driving too slowly simply because they were not driving. They were stopped. I would have to look but usually there is a different statute that applies to such. I was not trying to minimize their actions.

    You say "if they were not going to move it," which is precisely my point - they should have moved it.
    Not arguing that point just the fact that apparently they were not going to move it so them setting in the car would be the worst thing they could do. Once they had make the (poor) decision they were not going to move the vehicle, staying in the vehicle could end up being deadly for them.

    Not to mention there was a left-side shoulder as well. I realize this doesn't contribute to the initial accident but it is indicative of their panicked state and decision-making. Plus the driver was on the phone and did not have her hazards on at the time. I'm not sure how much more negligent you can be than that.
    I'm not claiming she did anything right. It sounds like she did as much wrong as one could so yes, that would put culpability on her, to an extent but...

    if a deer had run out into the road, I would side with you. Since there was a car setting in the road, then you also become culpable as you were not able to stop within the distance you could see. In my state that call that stopping within an assured distance and if you cannot stop within your range of site, you are driving too fast.

    now you say you could not see around the SUV and I can understand but since you could not see in front of the SUV, you needed to be able to stop within the distance you could see. Now, when the SUV moved, that distance did not diminish simply because the car was there. It was the same distance yet you could not stop. So yes, you do need to be able to stop or avoid something within the distance as if somebody pulled of that blindfold and viola` there was something in the road.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Rear-End Collision: Front Driver - Gross Negligence

    Thanks for the response.

    You're probably right and I'm sure that will be the argument if this does go to court. I'm not too worried as I still think the worst that could happen is the judge would maintain the dual-liability among parties.

    I'm just frustrated because I was following all of the conventional wisdom about distance (i.e. 1 car length per 10MPH) and am a generally prudent driver. The other driver was a very young girl who was most clearly in a panicked state and endangered the lives of everyone on the road with her multitude of poor decisions. I'm just not sure what to believe about "distance" anymore. Maybe I should just slap a bumper sticker on my car that says "THIS VEHICLE MAINTAINS ONE FOOTBALL FIELD'S LENGTH BETWEEN CARS AT ALL TIMES." Ugh.

    Thanks again.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Rear-End Collision: Front Driver - Gross Negligence

    Quote Quoting FranklinBluth22
    View Post
    Thanks for the response.

    You're probably right and I'm sure that will be the argument if this does go to court. I'm not too worried as I still think the worst that could happen is the judge would maintain the dual-liability among parties.

    I'm just frustrated because I was following all of the conventional wisdom about distance (i.e. 1 car length per 10MPH) and am a generally prudent driver. The other driver was a very young girl who was most clearly in a panicked state and endangered the lives of everyone on the road with her multitude of poor decisions. I'm just not sure what to believe about "distance" anymore. Maybe I should just slap a bumper sticker on my car that says "THIS VEHICLE MAINTAINS ONE FOOTBALL FIELD'S LENGTH BETWEEN CARS AT ALL TIMES." Ugh.

    Thanks again.
    Don't be frustrated, I've been driving for over 30 years, and been in a few near misses like this, even though I'm a careful driver. Fortunately, I haven't rear ended anyone yet.

    Here in NYC, many highways have sections with no shoulder, left or right. And many sections of these highways are situated on trenches with high walls, and if you go around a blind curve at 50mph, a car broke down in the right lane, and you got a perfect situation for a rear ending.

    Not long ago, I was in exactly such a situation, but I kept a close watch on traffic behind me, and to my left, and was able to swerve quickly left, and my wife who was on passenger side asked why I did that, not realizing a broken down car in the right lane because I passed by it so quickly.

    In another case, I saw a car going speed limit around 50MPH, 10 car lengths right behind me approaching a blind spot in the road, where just around the bend, there were backups every morning. I soon realized he was going to fast even at speed limit to stop,hit me, and I quickly moved into the extreme right lane. Soon after, he rear ended one car, that in turn ran into the ones in front of him. About four cars were badly damaged.

    In fact, I debated this last accident with myself through the years, whether I should've put my blinkers on, slowing down to 35mph for this driver, knowing this guy is approaching the bend too fast at the posted speed limit of 50mph, knowing they'll be a backup around the bend. I did what the guy in front of you did, moved quickly to the right most lane, and avoided the collision altogether.

    Do I have a duty to this guy behind me?? I don't know.

    And it's true, the guy behind is always held responsible. From what I've seen through the years though, is that slamming on the brakes is usually the worst thing to do, and quickly moving right or left if you can would the a lot safer. The distance needed to come to a complete stop at 50mph is to much in most of these situations.

    But in another case, the wheels on a car in the left lane came off the car, and started rolling down the highway. I was in the middle lane, saw what happned, put my blinkers on, slowed down from 60 to 35 mph, then slowly to a stop. Traffic soon built up behind me, and with the guy in the 3 wheel car to my left slowing down as well, got all the cars behind us coming to a gradual halt without any rear ending accidents.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Rear-End Collision: Front Driver - Gross Negligence

    Quote Quoting FranklinBluth22
    View Post
    Maybe I should just slap a bumper sticker on my car that says "THIS VEHICLE MAINTAINS ONE FOOTBALL FIELD'S LENGTH BETWEEN CARS AT ALL TIMES." Ugh.
    .
    I tried that but had to actually back up continually due to all the cars that would pull into the space I attempted to leave between me and the vehicle in front of me. Once I reached the point I started at, I just gave up


    just kidding of course but I do understand your situation.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Rear-Ending a Disabled Car, Stopped in a Traffic Lane

    I totally see both sides of this.

    Yes, the driver of the other vehicle should have pulled over onto the shoulder and turned on the hazard lights.

    BUT: Simple logic... If you can't see around the SUV in front you, you back off to a point where you can see better.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Rear-Ending a Disabled Car, Stopped in a Traffic Lane

    Quote Quoting PandorasBox
    View Post
    BUT: Simple logic... If you can't see around the SUV in front you, you back off to a point where you can see better.
    The only way for someone to see TWO cars ahead (assuming the car in front of you is larger) is to be at the top of a hill or a curve in the road. Think about it. The further away you drive doesn't make a difference because the view you have of the car in front of you relative to the car in in front of that car will always be the same. I'm probably not describing that the best, but the front-most car would never come into view no matter how far back you are. This is of course assuming a straight road (which I was on at the time).

    Try it yourself - hold a quarter up in front of your face with one hand and hold a dime up directly in front of the quarter. No matter how far away you place the two coins from your face, you will never be able to see that dime.

    Anyway, update: the passenger is claiming injury and my insurance will likely be paying for a portion of it since she obviously could not be at fault and they are maintaining the dual-liability decision. I assume this would increase my premium even more so, right?

    I'm going to appeal their decision though - it can't hurt.

    Again, I appreciate everyone's posts on the topic

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Rear-Ending a Disabled Car, Stopped in a Traffic Lane

    Sir, with due respect....

    I drive a small car, and this area is quite flat in many areas. If I am Ms Dime and can't see around Mr Quarter, it is logic to leave more safety space between me and him. Or to find a spot where I can safely pass him and move in front.

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