A 40-year-old woman was killed in a Knoxville car accident when she rear-ended a tractor-trailer that was slowing down as a result of a traffic jam caused by an earlier crash involving a drunk driver.
This incident has spurred the comment boards on local media sites to buzz with activity. There are many varying opinions about who should be at-fault. Some say the deceased was in the wrong. Others say the drunk driver who caused the initial crash (which was not fatal) should be held responsible for the death in the second crash.
Our Knoxville injury attorneys recognize that the latter is not a likely scenario, particularly in the criminal justice system. Despite the domino effect, these were two completely separate incidents. However, it is possible that the driver of the tractor trailer could be held liable, if certain conditions applied. But the case illustrates the complexities of determining fault in multi-vehicle collisions.
For the most part, drivers who rear-end other vehicles are held responsible under the law. The reason has to do with "assured clear distance." This essentially means that all drivers have a responsibility to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them, such that if the vehicle in front stops suddenly, there will be enough space in which to stop without causing a collision.
However, there are times when the driver in front could be held liable.
All drivers have a duty to make reasonable observations in order to determine whether a movement can be safely made and whether a proper signal or warning of intention is warranted when others might be affected.
One scenario in which a driver in front may be held liable is if he or she merges into your lane in front of you unexpectedly without maintaining a sufficient speed or without giving proper warning. The same liability might apply if the driver in front of you "brake checks" you, or is attempting to get you to "back off" by slamming the vehicle's brakes.
Another possible scenario is that the person in front of you negligently backs up or is moving in reverse. This is more common than you might think, though it is primarily more of a problem at traffic intersections than on the highway.
There have been instances when a driver who negligently slows or stops suddenly has been held liable for injuries caused to passengers in vehicles behind them that crashed as part of a chain reaction. This was true even if they weren't directly involved in the crash with the injured parties.
Drivers have been found negligent when others were injured as a result of failure to warn or signal vehicles behind them that a sudden stop may be imminent. However, most courts have excused the duty to signal or warn when there was an emergency or the sudden stop was due to traffic ahead. That appears to have been the case here.
However, no one who has suffered an injury due to a sudden stop accident should assume the case is a foregone conclusion. Meeting with an experienced injury attorney is always the best option.
If you are involved in a Knoxville traffic accident, contact Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C. at (865) 524-5657.
Knoxville woman killed in crash caused by backup from earlier wreck, Aug. 8, 2013, Staff Report, WBIR.com