Louisiana Revised Statute 32:81 places a duty on a motorist not to follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, keeping in mind the speed of the lead vehicle, traffic conditions, and condition of the roadway. Basically, the following driver must use good judgment and common sense. In a rear-end collision, the following driver is presumed to have breached this duty. As such, the following driver now has the burden of proving that he was not negligent. I believe this is a very difficult task.
If the following driver was paying attention, he would have noted the speed of the lead vehicle, matched his speed or slowed so that he would not follow too closely. The following driver would have to show that the lead driver was operating in a careless and/or reckless manner and created a hazard or dangerous condition that could not be avoided.
This marks my 18th year at Richard R. Kennedy APLC. When I started practicing law, cell phones were gaining in popularity, cars did not have GPS systems. Over the years, we have read and hear all kinds of excuses. One of the most common excuses is, "when I looked up, the car was stopped." Or, "I just couldn't stop in time." The bottom line is that the following motorist is often times not using good judgment and keeping a safe distance.
What is "safe distance?" While there is no exact measurement, several factors come into play. (1) type of roadway (2) weather conditions (3) traffic conditions (4) time of day or night (5) visibility. The greater the speed of the vehicles calls for a greater gap between cars. If driving in rainy or icy weather, drivers need to allow for greater distances between their car and the ones they are following because stopping takes longer on wet or icy roads. When driving in heavy bumper to bumper traffic, compared to light traffic, safe distances change distances and heavy traffic requires a higher degree of alertness. When driving in limited visibility conditions, or at night, a reasonably prudent driver will maintain a greater distance between vehicles and also use a higher degree of alertness.
So what happens when someone breaches their duty to maintain a safe distance? Often times it is a rear-end crash. And that can be the beginning of a long road to recovery. Please keep this in mind when you are driving -- am I too close to the car in front of mine? Maintain a safe distance, a distance where if the lead vehicle applies their brakes, you have time to react and begin braking so that you can safely bring your car to a stop without rear-ending the car in front of you.
What do you do if you have been rear-ended? Call me for a free consultation and case review.