A case arising out of a St. Martin Parish accident has shed light on the responsibility placed on drivers following behind another vehicle. According to Journet v. Mouton out of the Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit, a driver following another vehicle must exercise great care. The case arose out of an accident where a man and his family swerved to miss a slowing sheriff’s deputy, crossed the center line, and slammed into a ditch on the other side of the road. The driver of the vehicle was severely injured and was left quadriplegic.
Reports indicate the deputy was responding to an emergency call but had missed the driveway and was slowing to turn around in another drive. The driver of the following vehicle, who was driving without a license, knew the officer knew him and knew he did not have a license. Therefore, the following driver deliberately chose not to pass the deputy and claimed there were no brake lights and no turn signal used by the deputy. However, the plaintiff’s wife contradicted this testimony, stating that she did see brake lights and a turn signal. The defendants filed for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court and affirmed by the Court of Appeal.
To reach its decision, the court looked to relevant Louisiana statutes. Most pertinent amongst these is La.R.S. 32:81(A), which states a driver shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and shall have regard for the speed of the other vehicle. The court also looked to a Louisiana Supreme Court interpretation of the matter, which held that it is the duty of the following driver to exercise a great deal of care and to keep a safe distance behind the lead car.
With these rules in mind, the court found the plaintiff knew the deputy’s car was moving slow because he had passed other vehicles and would have passed the deputy if it were not for his fear of being caught driving without a license. The duty of care was therefore on the plaintiff to drive far enough back so as not to create a risk of harm to himself and the driver in front of him. When he could not stop fast enough to prevent hitting the deputy and thus swerved out of the way, the plaintiff breached his duty of care. Thus, the deputy’s actions, whether brake lights and turn signal were working or not, were not the cause of the accident and summary judgment was upheld.
This case highlights the complexities imposed by car accident lawsuits. These situations often require a detailed accident investigation, thorough witness interviews, and close analysis of the statutes and case law that shape the legalities at hand. An experienced accident attorney can help a car accident victim decide the merits of his case and, if the case moves forward, can help the victim fight for the compensation he needs and deserves.
However, it is important to remember these lawsuits must be filed within a certain period of time. Therefore, legal advice should be sought promptly after being injured in a car accident.
If you have been hurt in a car accident or are being sued by someone harmed in a car accident please contact The Berniard Law Firm for a consultation.