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

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

Quoting PandorasBox
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.
I still don't understand this logic. Leaving more space in between you and the car in front of you would never allow you to see what is in front of that car. It may broaden your field of vision amongst adjacent lanes, but never the lane you're in. This is basic geometry.

I'm not arguing with the logic that more distance between cars obviously reduces risk factors, only that one could not possibly expect to see in front of a larger vehicle. When you're traveling behind an 18-wheeler are you able to see the car in front of it? I don't see how this is physically possible.

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

I've driven for 21 years with no accident that was my fault.

This area is pretty flat. We have a few hills...

I was taught to watch ahead of me, scan atleast 1/4 mile if not more ahead...know what vehicles and possible obstacles are ahead. Then again, I do follow the speed limit (I'm not the one going 10 under if conditions are clear), and I'm also not tailgaiting. I leave more than 2 car lengths between me and the other car.

The simple thing is...in the supposed 5 minutes of this car being disabled...you were the only one who hit them....you were the only one who could not avoid hitting them....

3. jk
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Re: Rear-Ending a Disabled Car, Stopped in a Traffic Lane

Quoting FranklinBluth22
I still don't understand this logic. Leaving more space in between you and the car in front of you would never allow you to see what is in front of that car. It may broaden your field of vision amongst adjacent lanes, but never the lane you're in. This is basic geometry.

I'm not arguing with the logic that more distance between cars obviously reduces risk factors, only that one could not possibly expect to see in front of a larger vehicle. When you're traveling behind an 18-wheeler are you able to see the car in front of it? I don't see how this is physically possible.
it's not a matter of being able to see the car that is stopped. It is simply to allow you more time to react.

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

jk...thank you!!!! That explains it better....

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

Quoting PandorasBox
The simple thing is...in the supposed 5 minutes of this car being disabled...you were the only one who hit them....you were the only one who could not avoid hitting them....
One can't use the lack of other events occurring (other people hitting the car) as evidence that someone else was being negligent in their own actions. If 1 other vehicle hit the car would that make me less responsible for the initial incident by this theory? What if 10 other vehicles hit it? Besides, as I explained other cars weren't hitting it because they were swerving into other lanes. Clearly they would not have had time to stop either, and were taking a chance at creating a worse accident - it's a good thing they were lucky enough not to hit any cars to their sides.

Quoting jk
it's not a matter of being able to see the car that is stopped. It is simply to allow you more time to react.
I completely agree - was never arguing with this logic. But assume for argument's sake that both myself and the SUV were traveling 50MPH and there was 6 car lengths in between us, which I assume you would agree is a reasonable distance. The split second the SUV suddenly and unexpectedly swerves into the next lane without warning, the stopped car is now 6 car lengths in front of me. The expectation of a driver to adjust to this circumstance is unrealistic as no driver can logically assume that a stationary vehicle is suddenly going to appear, at that distance from you, on the interstate. We all drive under the assumption of a "normal flow of traffic" - that the cars around us are also traveling at reasonable speeds. What we deem our own speed/distance to be "reasonable and prudent" given the conditions of the road and other cars around us, etc. suddenly becomes insufficient to prevent something that no one could have logically predicted or expected.

When you hit a deer on the road, insurance companies will, in most cases, not fault you for the damage. This is because they know that generally a driver does not have time to react to such an unexpected, stationary obstruction in the roadway and that there was no action you could have taken to prevent it. I'm not sure why this situation is any different.

These laws exist for a reason: http://www.mit.edu/~jfc/right.html (also see the DC minimum speed law in my first post)

Also, check out the Solomon Curve: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_curve

Again, thanks everyone for posting. This is one of the first forums I've posted on in a long time where I have been able to actually generate some intelligent conversation and I appreciate it.

6. jk
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Re: Rear-Ending a Disabled Car, Stopped in a Traffic Lane

=FranklinBluth22;382276]One can't use the lack of other events occurring (other people hitting the car) as evidence that someone else was being negligent in their own actions.
actually, in law, you do exactly that. A "reasonable man standard" is often used to determine if the actions under review were prudent considering what a reasonable man would have done. If a reasonable man would not have hit the car, then it becomes your negligence that caused the damage. In this case, applying that standard, nobody else hit the car therefore, you are negligent for not avoiding the stopped car.

I completely agree - was never arguing with this logic. But assume for argument's sake that both myself and the SUV were traveling 50MPH and there was 6 car lengths in between us, which I assume you would agree is a reasonable distance.
this is where you are missing pandora's point. While it may be reasonable to travel 6 lengths behind the SUV so as to be able to stop if the SUV stopped, you must go beyond that and understand that, oh, say, there might be a car stopped in the middle of the road and since you cannot see around the SUV, you must then drive with that possibility in mind so as to be able to stop if the SUV suddenly swerved and you were faced with a car stopped in the middle of the road. You never know when that might happen so you must adjust your driving to be able to react should you be faced with that. There is much more to consider when spacing yourself from the car in front of you than just that one vehicle. Now, if you want to get into the geometry of the situation, the further behind the vehicle in front of you, the less distance in front of the vehicle in front of you is blind to you. If you are touching their bumper, obviously your view is obstructed for near 180º in front of you. If you are a mile behind, the vehicle will obstruct no more than the width of the vehicle and only if you are on an exactly straight road would you not be able to determine what is in front of the SUV up to a very close distance in front of the SUV. It is called perspective. Add into that the fact that most drivers tend to wander within their lane and viola` you can see what is in front of the vehicle in front of you.

The split second the SUV suddenly and unexpectedly swerves into the next lane without warning, the stopped car is now 6 car lengths in front of me.
and the exact point is; either you can stop within that distance or you can't. If you can't, you are driving too fast for the situation.

The expectation of a driver to adjust to this circumstance is unrealistic as no driver can logically assume that a stationary vehicle is suddenly going to appear, at that distance from you, on the interstate.
I disagree. If you cannot see what is ahead of you, you must assume what could be ahead of you and drive with that in consideration.

We all drive under the assumption of a "normal flow of traffic" - that the cars around us are also traveling at reasonable speeds. What we deem our own speed/distance to be "reasonable and prudent" given the conditions of the road and other cars around us, etc. suddenly becomes insufficient to prevent something that no one could have logically predicted or expected.
the unexpected is only unexpected because we refuse to accept the possibility. I live not far from Chicago. Every time I go to Chicago and drive their crazy freeways, I drive with the expectation that there actually may be a stopped car at any given place on the highway. That is just how it is and because of that, I have never been faced with an unexpected situation when there actually was a stopped car in the highway. It happens a lot more than I would have thought before driving in that city.

Now mind you, it is typical to drive 70 mph (on a 45 mph road) nearly bumper to bumper (seriously) in Chicago. I have come across cars stopped in the road in situations such as yours more times than I can remember. I have never hit such a car. One learns to look at traffic ahead and see what it is doing. If it appears that everybody in one lane is suddenly shifting to another lane; guess what? there is a blockage ahead and you need to be prepared to either stop of change lanes.

When you hit a deer on the road, insurance companies will, in most cases, not fault you for the damage.
you generally don't have the luxury of the deer simply setting in the middle of the road. They spring from the side of the road so you do not have the same amount of space to react. In fact, I had a deer hit me in the side of the car. I never even saw the deer (dark and in the country) until it actually hit my car. Obviously impossible to avoid such.

This is because they know that generally a driver does not have time to react to such an unexpected, stationary obstruction in the roadway and that there was no action you could have taken to prevent it. I'm not sure why this situation is any different.
a deer is not a stationary obstruction most of the time and yes, when faced with a deer that was simply standing in the road, I have avoided hitting them because I drove where I could stop or react to avoid hitting such a stationary object. It's when they are moving and spring into your path that the inability to avoid them is accepted. We have hundreds of deer/car collisions in my area every fall and I have yet to hit a stationary deer. I don't know anybody else that has hit a stationary deer either. Them suckers run and jump.

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

Quoting jk
a deer is not a stationary obstruction most of the time and yes, when faced with a deer that was simply standing in the road, I have avoided hitting them because I drove where I could stop or react to avoid hitting such a stationary object. It's when they are moving and spring into your path that the inability to avoid them is accepted. We have hundreds of deer/car collisions in my area every fall and I have yet to hit a stationary deer. I don't know anybody else that has hit a stationary deer either. Them suckers run and jump.
Certainly true - deer usually aren't standing still in the middle of the road. But if we should all drive under the expectation that a stopped vehicle can appear on the interstate, why should we not also drive with the expectation that an animal can jump in front of your car as well? Deer appear on the interstate all the time back in my home state. If we should drive with this expectation then why do insurance companies say the driver is not at fault in these cases? (Yes, a deer literally running into the side of your car is different I realize)

Quoting jk
the unexpected is only unexpected because we refuse to accept the possibility.
I disagree - as you said, there is a "reasonable man standard." Some people may accept the possibility of aliens descending from space and landing on the highway. But that would still be an "unexpected occurrence" because a reasonable person would not expect it. I have never once seen a car stopped in the middle of the interstate as you have (on the shoulder/breakdown lane, yes - not in the middle of the road).

Look, all I'm saying is that there is a certain threshold of expectation that drivers can reasonably be expected to base their actions upon. If we assume that ANYTHING can happen at ANY given time no matter what the conditions or situation, then everyone would be forced to drive excessively and unrealistically slow in order to prevent any possible negative outcome. It would be virtually impossible to drive more 20MPH without the risk of hitting something, however much expected OR unexpected.

Should we drive under the caution that a plane will fall out of the sky and land in the middle of the road? Of course not. But could it happen? Sure. If it did happen would a driver be deemed at fault because he should have accepted the possibility of such an event? No - because it is unrealistic to expect all drivers on the road to drive under that assumption; a "reasonable person" certainly would not expect that to happen.

Has anyone on this thread ever taken a DMV educational driving course (like one of those defensive driving courses or something similar)? I would assume they provide students with some measurable degree of distance to keep from the vehicle in front of you. If a state agency is providing you with this reasonable and more importantly, measurable, degree of distance, then why does the law take the opposite approach and simply state the overly general "reasonable and prudent" phrasing? I'm sure there's a reason but my problem with this is that it exists solely for the purposes of placing blame rather than to provide a more actionable and measurable standard for all drivers. States shouldn't be preaching both ways. Though I could be missing something here...

Keep posting! Thanks!

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

Quoting FranklinBluth22
One can't use the lack of other events occurring (other people hitting the car) as evidence that someone else was being negligent in their own actions. If 1 other vehicle hit the car would that make me less responsible for the initial incident by this theory? What if 10 other vehicles hit it? Besides, as I explained other cars weren't hitting it because they were swerving into other lanes. Clearly they would not have had time to stop either, and were taking a chance at creating a worse accident - it's a good thing they were lucky enough not to hit any cars to their sides.

You got me thinking.

A few years ago, I was driving to work, in the middle lane of a highway, and my engine conked out. I was going around 60mph. Turned out the distributor got busted while I was driving.

I looked around, the guy to my right was going 50mph, with more than a few people tailgating. I took a chance, barged into the right lane, between the car and the tailgator, managing to roll to a stop halfway down the next exit ramp, but not quite off, and not able to go all the way to the right.

And yes, I almost caused an accident trying to get to the right.

Well, had the tailgator not let me in, I would've conked out in the middle lane. Under your theory, would I be at fault because I can't get over to the right??

Or would I be at fault for not going all the way to the right on the exit ramp??

And if some guy hits me, because of a truck in front of him, he is TOTALLY NOT AT FAULT?? And I am because I failed to pull all the way to the right??

Let's put it this way, if anytime one car hits another car, the case has to be litigated to death, and spend \$200,000 in lawyers fees just to determine fault on a \$50,000 claim, we're in need of tort reform. That's why the rule that the guy behind you is at fault is a good rule IMHO.

Just to say I was in a car/pedetrian accident in 2004 where I was the driver. In NY, under no fault, the driver pays regardless of how negligent the pedestrian is, as is in my case. None the less, even with my insurance paying for something clearly not my fault, I think it's a good rule. If not, there would be nothing but endless litgation, because knowing some friends of mine, the cases would be litigated to death because it's always the other guy at fault. And I can wind up going to litigation for years.

If I were you, just let it go, let the insurance handle it. Just be thankful you are alive and well.

9. jk
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Re: Rear-Ending a Disabled Car, Stopped in a Traffic Lane

I disagree - as you said, there is a "reasonable man standard." Some people may accept the possibility of aliens descending from space and landing on the highway. But that would still be an "unexpected occurrence" because a reasonable person would not expect it. I have never once seen a car stopped in the middle of the interstate as you have (on the shoulder/breakdown lane, yes - not in the middle of the road).
It isn't whether it is reasonable to presume a car might be in the road. What is in question as to being reasonable is whether a reasonable person would have been able to avoid hitting the car and you have seen a real world test where all the others were able to avoid hitting the car while you hit it. That shows you were not driving with proper prudence.

You see, you are mistaking trying to claim the situation itself was unreasonable but again, that is irrelevant. It could have been a car. It could have been a tire from a truck. It could have been something that had fallen off another car.

what is being judged is not whether it was reasonable to believe that that specific obstruction would be in the road but would a person that is considered a reasonable (think of it as "average" rather than reasonable. it makes it a bit easier to comprehend) driver been driving with such prudence and diligence that they would have been able to avoid hitting the obstruction. Apparently many others did avoid hitting it. That does not make the situation reasonable nor unreasonable nor does it make you unreasonable. It simply means you did not drive in such a manner as the average person would have and as such, would have been able to avoid the obstacle, therefore, you are negligent.

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

Quoting SChinFChin
Well, had the tailgator not let me in, I would've conked out in the middle lane. Under your theory, would I be at fault because I can't get over to the right??

Or would I be at fault for not going all the way to the right on the exit ramp??
I remember reading in passing somewhere that mechanical failure such as a busted engine would be seen as indicative of negligent maintenance of your vehicle and thus, you could potentially be found partially liable. BUT, I'm skeptical as to how often insurance companies would abide by this logic anyhow.

While the physical situation would be the same as the present flat tire one, it is obviously a different scenario because your vehicle would have been completely inoperable. There is nothing you can do about that.

On the other hand, how long is a reasonable amount of time to expect a driver to make their (operational vehicle) way to a breakdown lane? My insurance has just informed me that the motorist claims to have been going 5-10 MPH now so I will stick with that assumption since, if it is true, the speed differential between us may have made it appear to me that she was stopped. If she travels in the left lane for 5 miles in that condition would it be reasonable? She was unable to get even a single lane over to the shoulder in a span of 5 minutes! With more distance/time of driving like that, the expectancy of causing an accident obviously grows dramatically and eventually crosses over into "expected" territory.

I see your point about cases being litigated to death, but this happens anyway. Accidents involving multiple cars frequently involve the back-and-forth blame game in court as I'm sure we all know.

I'm not sure about the pedestrian thing in New York, but I know there are laws in other states that don't place such automatic blame on the driver. After all, if someone jumps in front of your car how you can be expected to stop?

But you're all right and I will probably just end up sticking with the insurance company's decision, as the general acceptance of the rear-end collision liability theory seems to be pretty much inescapable.

I'll be curious to find out what "percentage" liable they find me. I believe this is how they determine how much of her medical bills will be paid. The other portion will, ironically, be paid by the passenger's friend's (driver) insurance. Her premium will increase as a result too.

Quoting jk
It isn't whether it is reasonable to presume a car might be in the road. What is in question as to being reasonable is whether a reasonable person would have been able to avoid hitting the car and you have seen a real world test where all the others were able to avoid hitting the car while you hit it. That shows you were not driving with proper prudence.
Good point. And I agree with your previous comments as well that a driver should be able to stop within the distance he can see between him and the car in front rather than the distance between him and what it would take for the car in front to stop. So point taken. Though why wouldn't the "reasonable" standard apply to both? I'm not saying the situation itself is "unreasonable," per se, just that a reasonable person would not expect the situation given the location/circumstances.

I still think it's less safe to swerve out of the way into another lane without warning as every other car did. Am I wrong in this assumption? I mean, if you're able to check your mirrors and all that within that few second span of time and ensure you're clear, then kudos to you, but usually it happens too fast to react with full discretion.

In any case, points all well-taken.

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