A driver of a motor vehicle has a duty to make reasonable observations in order to determine that a maneuver or movement can be made safely with regards to others as well as to give a proper signal or warning of their intentions when others may be affected. Both the duty to lookout and the duty of signal are commonly outlined in statutes and require a motorist to exercise ordinary care.
An emergency situation may arise when a driver is required to stop suddenly under conditions that do not allow them time to signal.
What Happens If the Driver Suddenly Hits the Brakes?
If a driver ahead of another car stops suddenly or suddenly hits the brakes, they may cause the car behind them to hit them. This is called a rear-end collision.
This type of accident occurs when one vehicle collides, or strikes, into the back of another vehicle. In many cases, this occurs when a vehicle is stopped at an intersection and another car approaches too quickly behind them.
Rear-end collisions may also occur when two vehicles are moving when the vehicle in front stops suddenly. These accidents often occur when the rear driver is following the driver at the front too closely.
These types of accidents may also lead to chain reaction car accidents. Chain reaction accidents occur when the vehicles following the secondary vehicle crash into the secondary vehicle because they cannot stop in time.
Another cause of rear-end collisions is called brake checking. This occurs when the front driver hits their breaks to signal to the driver behind them that they are following too closely.
This practice is called tailgating. Drivers are supposed to leave a prudent distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them to allow themselves adequate time to stop, if necessary, without hitting the other vehicle.
In the majority of cases, the driver of the rear car will be at fault for the accident.
Can Drivers Be Held Liable for Stopping Suddenly?
If a driver fails to signal, it may be considered negligence if others are injured as a result of the failure to warn. This may also include cases of stopping in the middle of the road.
Common factors that courts will consider to determine fault in these types of cases include:
- Whether a signal was given or not;
- Whether there were emergency circumstances that excused the giving of a signal; and
- Whether the absence of the signal was the cause of the accident.
In a case where the collision was caused by a sudden stop due to traffic ahead, a court will typically hold that a driver will not be held liable due to the suddenness of the stop. Instead, the court will typically hold that a driver who is moving in congested traffic has a duty to anticipate the likelihood of sudden and unsignaled stops.
If a stop is made due to a traffic sign or signal, a driver who stops suddenly is typically not held liable. A court will often hold that the duty to give a signal is excused or that the driver who was following had a duty to see and obey the signal just as the stopping driver.
Can a Driver Be Held Liable Even Though He Was Not Involved in the Accident?
If a driver negligently comes to a sudden and unsignaled stop, they may be held liable to other individuals who were injured as a result of their negligence even if their vehicle was not directly involved in the accident.
Courts have held that a stopping driver is liable in a collision involving:
- A following vehicle and one approaching from another direction;
- A collision between following vehicles;
- A collision with a crossing vehicle; or
- Another vehicle that, as a result of the sudden stop, veers off the road or strikes a pedestrian.
In addition, a slowing or stopping driver may be held liable to a passenger in their car if their negligence causes injury to the passenger. This applies if the injuries are due to a collision with another vehicle or from being thrown about in or thrown out of the stopping car.
How Is Negligence Proven In Car Accident Lawsuits?
There are four elements that an injured party must prove in order to show the defendant driver was negligent, including:
- Causation; and
The elements are further explained in the context of car accidents below:
- Duty of care: A duty of care is owed to another individual in any situation when they could possibly and foreseeably be harmed by an individual’s actions. All drivers owe other drivers a duty to drive safely as well as a duty to obey all traffic laws at all times;
- The standard of care an individual owes in any given situation is generally determined by what a reasonably prudent person would do;
- Breach of duty: The plaintiff must be shown that the defendant breached their duty to safely operate their motor vehicle. One example of a breach of this duty would be if a defendant fails to obey visible traffic signs;
- A breach of duty occurs when an individual does not act as reasonably or as prudent as any other individual would under the same circumstances, for example, stopping at a red light;
- Causation: The plaintiff is required to show that the defendant’s breach of duty is what actually caused their injuries. If the defendant’s actions were not the actual cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, it is unlikely that the defendant would be held liable for negligence; and
- Damages: The plaintiff has to calculate the losses and costs that were associated with their injury and put them into a quantifiable monetary amount. If they are unable to do so, their damages awarded to them may be reduced or even denied.
The remedies that are available for negligence in a car accident typically include damages being awarded to the injured party, or plaintiff. These damages include funds to cover costs related to the accident, such as:
- Hospital bills;
- Mechanic repair fees; and
- Lost wages.
In some cases, a negligent defendant driver may have their driver’s license privileges temporarily suspended. If the defendant engaged in more serious or repeated offenses, their driver’s license may be completely revoked.
Should I Consult an Attorney About Sudden Stop Accidents?
Car accidents are often scary and stressful. In addition to that, there are inconveniences such as waiting on car repair, dealing with insurance companies, and healing from injuries.
If you have been in an automobile accident that was caused by a sudden stop, it is in your best interests to contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you with all aspects of your case, including negotiating with insurance companies and filing a lawsuit, if necessary.
It is important to remember that insurance companies want to give you the least amount of compensation that they can. They also typically have attorneys on staff to defend them against legal claims.
Having an attorney handle your case gives you the best chance at proper compensation for your injuries. Your attorney will know how to best calculate your damages amount and present it to the insurance companies or the court.
In some cases, this may require an expert, especially in cases involving injuries. Your attorney will know how to gather this type of evidence and any other evidence that may be necessary in your case.