How Do You Know If A Driver Acted Reasonably?
In Florida, and elsewhere, motor vehicle accidents can happen for all sorts of reasons. In order to find ways to reduce automobile collisions, insurance companies as well as industry researchers spend time sorting through all of the available car crash data dividing the different types of accidents into categories. For example, rear-end collisions are one of the most common types of automobile accidents. Another common type of car accident is the “loss of control” collision.
Depending upon the particular circumstances surrounding a loss of control car accident, an insurance company may or may not agree to cover a victim’s damages. A lot of times, their decision is based on their determination as to whether or not a driver was acting reasonably at the time of the accident — that’s because reasonable drivers are not normally negligent and are therefore not the cause of the accident.
What is a “Loss of Control” Collision?
There is no single and specific accident that can be labeled as a “loss of control” collision because these kinds of accidents happen for all sorts of reasons. For instance, a truck that “jackknives” or where a driver runs-off-the-road are both considered loss of control collisions by insurance carriers. Rear-end accidents are also considered loss of control accident especially when it’s raining outside (hydroplaning).
The common factor in all these scenarios? The driver is unable to control his or her vehicle and as a result, there is a crash.
Sometimes, loss of control doesn’t even mean that the driver is in the car at the time of the collision. For example, if a driver parks his or her car, truck, SUV, or minivan on an incline and fails to secure the vehicle before he or she leaves it (e.g., putting on the parking brake, turning the wheels into the curb, making sure the car gear is in park), and then the car begins to move and ends up colliding with another car or hitting a person, that is also considered a “loss of control” accident by industry standards.
Common Examples of Loss of Control Collisions
While there are a wide variety of accidents that can be attributed to loss of control by the driver, there are some kinds of loss of control collisions that are commonly caused by certain factors.
1. Bad Weather
Often, examples of loss of control accidents will involve bad weather. Things like rain, high winds, foggy conditions, or ice and snow (not that we see this in Florida!) can cause loss of control collisions. Driving in bad weather obviously makes things riskier for the driver trying to maneuver his or her vehicle through the mess – we’ve all been there. Sometimes, serious weather will create circumstances where the driver loses the ability to steer, or brake, or otherwise control his or her car which results in an accident.
2. Road Hazards
Another common cause of loss of control accidents are hazardous road conditions. Slippery roads after a rain can result in a loss of control crash. Oily film on a roadway is another danger here, as are potholes in roads damaged from overuse or flooding and other road hazards which may surprise the driver, causing him or her to lose control of their motor vehicle.
Driving too fast is a common reason that drivers lose control of their cars. Speed limits exist for safety reasons. Exceeding the speed limit may not seem like a big deal – until the driver finds him or herself losing control taking a sharp curve or making a sudden stop because another car darts in front of the driver.
4. Tire Failure
Tire blowouts are another common cause for loss of control collisions. According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA), a surprising number of vehicles are driven in the United States today with tires that are not properly filled with air. This is usually due to the drivers failing to routinely check the tire pressure of their vehicles. Sometimes, it’s caused by a small tire leak or climate change.
As a result, these drivers are at a high risk of being involved in a loss of control-collision due to a blowout or simply being unable to gain traction with the road.
Was the Driver Reasonable in Your Loss of Control Crash?
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a loss of control collision, then you may want to consider how insurance companies view these kinds of accidents and what they consider to be reasonable precautions a driver should take to prevent them.
If the driver who caused your loss of control collision failed to act as a reasonable and prudent driver, then he or she may be liable to compensate you for your damages (like medical expenses, emergency room treatment, pain and suffering, lost wages and more) under Florida negligence law.
Here are some issues to consider when trying to convince an insurance adjuster that the driver who caused the accident didn’t act reasonably and therefore was at fault for the accident (from material provided by Northland, Travelers, EMC, and American National):
1. What speed was his car being driven at the time of the crash? If he was speeding, then arguably he was NOT driving reasonably.
2. If the driver was driving within the speed limit, was that smart given the conditions that were present at the time of the crash? If there was bad weather (rain, fog), then a reasonable driver would slow down to be safe.
3. Would an expert believe that the driver was driving a safe rate of speed at the time of the accident?
4. How much distance was there between the cars on the road at the time of the crash? Did the driver keep a safe distance between his car and the car ahead of him?
5. Were there special circumstances that day which would have a reasonable driver maintaining an even greater than usual distance between his car and the car ahead of him?
6. Would an expert agree that the driver was keeping a safe distance between his car and the car ahead of him?
7. What were the road conditions at the time of the accident? Did the driver know about them beforehand? Was the driver new to this route or had he driven it countless times before? A reasonable driver should be prepared for the unexpected, and a driver who is well-acquainted with a route should be expected to act with a high degree of care for known dangers.
8. What were the weather conditions at the time of the accident? Did the driver know about them before choosing to drive this route? Was this a sudden storm or a heavy rain that had been in the forecast warnings? Were there warnings to avoid driving if possible in these conditions? Would a reasonable driver have chosen to drive his car at this time, on this roadway?
9. Did the driver try to use his brakes? Why not?
10. Did the driver slam on his brakes and as a result, lose control of his car? Was this reasonable — was he trying to avoid hitting someone or something or did he panic?
11. Did the driver accelerate his speed right before the accident? Why? Did this cause him to lose control?
12. Did the driver try and turn the wheel before the accident to avoid losing control? Was that the reasonable thing to do in these circumstances?
13. How well did the driver know his vehicle? Had he driven it often? Was this the first time behind the wheel? A reasonable driver will understand that different types of vehicles require different operating skills and concerns. A heavy SUV will not skid on a slick street, but a light compact car might. A passenger van may tend to roll over or veer out of the traffic lane much more easily than a sedan due to its center of gravity. Did the driver understand this?
14. What precautions did the driver take to keep control of the vehicle given the vehicle’s characteristics (like its weight or center of gravity)?
15. Was the driver being reasonably cautious and aware of the weather conditions and dangers, like standing water on the roadway?
16. Was the driver driving while music was playing? Was this reasonable?
17. Was the driver driving while chatting with passengers in the car? Was this reasonable given the weather conditions or road hazards?
18. Was the driver watching out for dangers on the road like a reasonable driver would be doing?
19. How old was the driver? How much experience did he have behind the wheel?
20. What were the driver’s work hours? Had he just gotten off an extra-long shift where a reasonable driver might not have felt safe driving a vehicle?
21. Was the driver texting while driving? Any reasonable driver knows that texting while driving is inviting a loss of control collision.
22. Was the driver drunk? It is not reasonable for anyone to take the wheel of a motor vehicle if they are intoxicated.
23. Did the driver know what to do if he was faced with a sudden road hazard, like debris blowing on the windshield in a heavy Florida storm? What driver’s education did he have? Reasonable drivers are prepared for these surprises.
24. Was the driver unaware of the car’s position on the roadway? Reasonable drivers are alert and do not allow their vehicles to drift over into other lanes of traffic or off the paved road.
25. What steps did the driver take before he left his parked car? Reasonable drivers put on their parking brake as well as make sure the car is not in neutral and that the wheels are turned in such a way that if the vehicle were to roll, the curb would stop it.
26. Who owned the vehicle that went out of control? If it was a company car, were there driving standards in place regarding this vehicle? Was the driver following them?
27. Was the vehicle properly maintained? Were the tires inflated to the right amount? Were the brakes working properly?
28. Who was responsible for this vehicle – the driver or his employer? Was the driver reasonable to depend upon his employer to make sure the vehicle was safe to drive?
29. Was the driver wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash? A reasonable driver obeys the safety laws.
30. Was the driver eating, drinking, or putting on makeup at the time of the crash? A reasonable driver does not distract herself from the task of driving.
31. Did the tire blow and cause the loss of control? Did the driver check the tires before taking the wheel? Would a reasonable driver have done so?
32. How long had this vehicle been parked or stored before it was driven? Cars that are neglected are prone to failure and a reasonable driver will understand this and take precautions.
33. What was going on in the driver’s life shortly before the crash? Was she upset at the time of the accident? A reasonable driver does not drive a car when they are angry or crying, or overly emotional.
How Does a Florida Car Accident Lawyer Add Value to a Victims Loss of Control Claim?
After a car crash, victims may decide to handle their claims themselves, particularly if the accident was a minor one. Hopefully, these questions and considerations will help them get maximum coverage for their damages.
However, in serious car accidents where there has been a loss of control by a driver, investigating the cause of the accident can be complicated. Here, having an experienced auto accident lawyer to help gather evidence like the police report, photos taken by police, statements by witnesses and the victim, depositions of the other drivers, passengers and witnesses and the hiring and examination of the appropriate experts can be essential to maximizing a victim’s recovery. That’s in addition to the knowledge an experienced personal injury lawyer can share as to the value of a claim from years of negotiating with insurance adjusters and defense attorneys.
A good piece of advice if you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident where a driver loses control of the vehicle, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person, whichever you prefer) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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