We’ve all seen it, and certainly at DBM we’ve heard similar stories from clients: an erratic driver clearly unsure of where they’re going, changing lanes, making unsafe turns, cutting across lanes and creating dangerous driving situations
We’ve all thought, “That person is going to cause an accident. And it’ll be their fault.”
But what if the accident they cause involves you and others? You’re not responsible, right? It was their wild driving, right?
Here are the basic facts:
A woman was merging into a three lane thoroughfare, swerved from Lane 1 into Lane 2 and back into Lane 1again, causing one car to move around her as quickly as possible to avoid her.
Then she crossed back into Lane 2 while trying to cut across all lanes to make a fast approaching left turn. As she abruptly angled into Lane 2, her SUV was hit from behind by a delivery truck, driven by a professional driver with many years experience and an excellent record.
The woman’s vehicle was launched over the meridian near the intersection and struck an oncoming vehicle “high on the front end.” The driver’s passenger, his wife, was injured in the crash, hence the need to fully assess liability.
At its core, the trial was what caused the accident, the woman driving erratically, or the truck driver not paying close enough attention.
Here are the key questions and answers:
Was the woman really driving erratically? Yes. The truck driver testified that he saw the woman change lanes twice, swerving between them, which was corroborated by eyewitnesses.
Did the woman cut dangerously across three lanes of traffic to attempt a quick left turn? Yes, based on evidence and testimony, the judge ruled that the woman was so intent in following the instructions from her phone’s GPS, she tried to hurry across lanes to make a quick left turn.
Did the woman, upon getting into Lane 2 ahead of the truck brake suddenly? Yes. Evidence on the scene and eyewitness testimony supports this conclusion.
Did the woman driving the SUV have a variety of versions of how the accident happened? Yes, she told her doctor one version of what happened, the police another and the courts another. This does not indicate an attempt to be dishonest – it is common for people involved in significant accidents to be somewhat confused about what actually happened in the days afterward.
Was the driver of the truck a credible witness? Yes, the judge ruled that the truck driver’s version of events was clear, consistent and believable.
Was the woman driving the SUV found to be at fault for the accident? Yes, the judge ruled that unsafe driving and an unsafe lane change on her part made it impossible for the truck driver to avoid hitting her.
So, the driver of the truck was fully cleared of liability? NO, here’s the kicker. The judge ruled that because the driver saw the erratic driving of the woman in the SUV, he should have anticipated that it was probable that she could cause an accident, and he should have exercised more caution in such a potentially dangerous situation.
The conclusion? The driver of the SUV was determined to be 75% responsible and the truck driver 25% responsible.
Strangely enough, the very fact that he noticed that the SUV was erratic is what determined that he had some shared responsibility. If the woman had veered into his lane out of the blue, the truck driver would be entirely in the clear.
It’s very good to be aware of bad and potentially dangerous drivers, but it’s crucial to exercise extreme caution and to anticipate potential trouble.
When it comes to car accidents, it is rarely cut and dried. That’s why we at DBM recommend that anyone involved in one contacts a personal injury lawyer. It is so very important to know your rights, your obligations, and your responsibilities.