Does the leading driver have any contributory fault in this collision?

by Ron
(Charlotte, NC)

This accident occurred in Nashville, TN. My daughter was stopped at a stop sign at an intersection when the car in front of her began to move into traffic making a right turn. My daughter looked left to verify that traffic was clear to enter the street, and proceeded forward to make her right turn.

The car in front of her had stopped abruptly after moving from the stop sign, and my daughter rear ended the car. There was no apparent reason for the leading car to stop as the traffic was clear, and my daughter could not stop in time before hitting her.

Damage was significant on my daughter's vehicle (a 2002 Ford Escape), but there was virtually no damage to the leading car (coincidentally, also a 2002 Ford Escape). My daughter is now having back pain and has missed work as a result.

I would think that my daughter would have a reasonable expectation that the leading car would continue into traffic, since she had begun moving and there was no apparent reason to stop.

Even though the presumption of liability would make the party who rear ended at fault, how much negligence could be attributed to the other party in the leading car for stopping arbitrarily and 'causing' my daughter to rear end her car? Any perspective you can give on contributory negligence of the leading driver would be appreciated. Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Does the leading driver have any contributory fault in this collision?":

Ron (Charlotte, NC):

The State of Tennessee Code 55-8-124 clearly states:

"The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway."

While it is arguable the driver in front should share some liability for stopping suddenly, you would have a very hard time convincing not only the insurance company, but the court to decide any contributory negligence existed at the time of the collision.

In almost all cases, driver's who strike other drivers from the rear are culpable for a violation of Tennessee Code, Section 55-8-124. Here’s why...

Take for instance a driver in front who begins to make a right turn, but suddenly stops to avoid hitting a dog. In that case, if the driver following rear ended the driver in front, the driver following would be liable. This is because the law is meant to cover such eventualities.

While your daughter presumes the driver in front stopped arbitrarily, that was probably not the case. There was a reason the driver in front stopped. It could be that the driver’s foot slipped off the gas pedal, the driver was avoiding an oncoming car, or avoiding a pothole, or for any other number of legitimate reasons. Or, the driver may have just stopped....it doesn't really matter.

Unfortunately, from the facts you present, your daughter was following too closely.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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