A recent tragedy on Highway 34 just east of Mount Pleasant involving a semi-truck and passenger vehicle, reported on KCCI.com, highlights the dangers of illegally operated semi-trucks as well as a common misconception among the drivers on Iowa Highways. There is a common belief that the person at the back of a rear-end collision is always at fault. This is not always the case.
While all motorists must maintain a proper lookout for other traffic and follow vehicles at a distance sufficient to ensure that they can bring their vehicle to a stop in a timely manner when necessary, there are circumstances where a rear vehicle may not be at fault for rear-ending another vehicle. All motorists have the right to assume that the other drivers on the road will comply with traffic regulations. Consequently, when a driver in forward traffic does something that is either illegal or unexpected, approaching drivers are not always able to react in enough time to avoid a collision even if they are doing absolutely nothing wrong and are being completely attentive.
Take for example the case where GRLLaw was able to obtain a substantial verdict for victims of an accident with a slow moving semi-truck. In that case, it was proved that the semi-truck involved in that accident was actually at fault even though the plaintiff's vehicle struck it from the rear. This was because witnesses established that the semi-truck was initially parked illegally on the side of Highway 218 before it attempted to re-enter traffic without first ensuring that the movement could be made be made safely. Add to that the fact that the semi-truck's rear clearance lights were not working properly and the driver failed to signal or warn approaching traffic that she was pulling out and traveling well below the posted speed limit and one can understand how the jury found the semi-driver to be 90% at fault for the accident.
There are a number of specific legal basis for the lead vehicle in a rear-end collision to be legally liable in a rear-end collision. They can include the following violations of Iowa's rules of the road, among other things.
1. Stopping on a road or highway;
2. Unsafe starting of a stopped vehicle;
3. Failing to maintain a proper lookout to the rear;
4. Failure to yield to oncoming traffic;
5. Illegally stopping on the side of a highway;
6. Driving too slowly;
7. Improper lighting;
8. Unsafe stopping or sudden slowing of a vehicle;
9. Failure to signal intent to stop or slow;
10. Failure to signal an intent to turn;
11. Failure to use emergency signals ("Flashers") when necessary.
Many of these problems are made even worse when lead vehicles commit these traffic violations at night or in areas with poor forward visibility. Obviously, motorists cannot avoid what they cannot see in a timely manner. Consequently, the rear vehicle is not always at fault for a rear-end collision. Always keep in mind that there are circumstances where accidents are caused due to the negligence of the lead vehicle. A thorough investigation must always be conducted before an accurate conclusion can be made. Don't make the mistake of thinking that just because a vehicle hit another vehicle from the rear that the rear vehicle must be at fault. The law and science may prove otherwise.
Have a SAFE and Happy Independence Day!