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  1. #1
    ROINAL Guest

    rear end collision

    In Alabama,

    I was following a minivan that collided into a car and was unable to avoid her. My motorcycle hit her left rear and I was ejected from the vehicle. I sustained minimal personal injury, but my bike and her van had property damage.

    The accidents were written up in two separate accidents. I was given primary blame for the rear end collision for misjudging stopping distance with a contributing circumstance of following too closely.

    I dispute the police report. The prime cause of the wreck was the van used a Ford Escort to stop not her brakes, Hence improper signal to stop was given. I was following her by at least the distence discribed in AL code of 20 feet for every 10 MPH.

    The only way to over rule the accident report is to get a court ruling otherwise. The damages on each side are approx. $1500 so I don't want to use a lawyer because it was such a small amount. My motorcycle was uninsured so I'm in this alone.

    How do I research similar Alabama accidents to make sure my complaint has support before I take this to small claims? I think I have a good case to at least limit my liability if I am found proximate cause.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Somnambulist University
    In my opinion, you have one BIG weakness in your theory. That is that it really doesn't matter whether you were in compliance with the 'recommended' "distence discribed in AL code of 20 feet for every 10 MPH."

    Here is my reasoning:
    1) That is only a guideline and not a statutory requirement.
    2) The actual distance doesn't matter. What does matter is that you didn't provide sufficient TIME AND space to stop without hitting her. You are REQUIRED to provide a SAFE distance to stop in the event the driver stops in front of you. If you were 1/2 mile behind her and she stoppped AND if you weren't paying attention and hit her, you would still be liable.

    However, I will offer you an alternative theory...
    What you are fighting is generally called the "Assured Clear Distance Ahead Doctrine". Generally, this means that a motorist (or motorcyclist) on the roadway is under a duty to operate his or her vehicle so as to be able to stop or control the vehicle within the range of his or her vision or within an assured clear distance ahead. However, one exception to this rule involves a motorist (or motorcyclist) who is confronted with a sudden emergency ahead, such as when the established assured clear distance ahead is suddenly and unexpectedly shortened and obstructed, without fault by the driver, so as to make it impossible to avoid a collision [Ernt v. Ace Motor Sales, Inc. 550 F. Supp.1220, 226 (E.D. Pa, 1982, aff'd, 720 F.2d 661 (3rd Cir, 1983)] and [Cline v. United States, 214 F. Supp. 66, 72 (E.D. Tenn, 1962].

    Now, the detemination of the applicability of the above to your specific situation is yours.

  3. #3
    ROINAL Guest

    Following too close

    I first want to thank you for you comment it is GREATLY appreciated. I find myself drawn more to the law and challenge than recovery of $1500, but I don't want to part with my money either.

    To clarify: I felt the officer's indication of following too close was incorrect. I was not cited for following to close, but by listing it as a contributing factor he does imply I was not in compliance with Alabama code. I did not break the legal threshold per the state's description. (See below) If on the other hand I am following too closely because I could not avoid any possible driving scenario a driver (or rider) may face I bear some responsibility. The language for "following too close" is not the same as the language for "failure to yield", which clearly indicates that any accident is proof you did not yield. I will respect your opinion on following too close.

    Still I ache (Quite literally) over not having brake lights to react too. I have a hard time accepting prime responsibility when I was in compliance with rules (actually 2 seconds behind her) and the van was not. The Alabama code for required signals (see below) was certainly not adhered to, because she had the opportunity to see the car she rear-ended

    Your advice on "Assured Clear Distance Ahead Doctrine" sounds promising if I understand it correctly. The van is not in compliance because it did not operate the vehicle in a safe and controlled manner within the range of her vision. She was given responsibility of the other 3-vehicle accident when she rear-ended the Escort and the Escort hit an Intrepid.

    Am I in compliance with this act? The accident is surely a "sudden emergency ahead" unexpectedly shortening my clear distance ahead, but what is my responsibility for seeing through the van? Riding behind the van I COULD NOT see through it (vehicle height, tinted windows, cloudy day), but normally I will ride to the extreme left or right to get a peak, this time I did not.

    Is there a place on-line to read the cases you noted?

    Section 32-5A-89
    Following too closely.
    (a) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway. Except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, the driver of a vehicle shall leave a distance of at least 20 feet for each 10 miles per hour of speed between the vehicle that he is driving and the vehicle that he is following.

    Section 32-5A-133
    Turning movements and required signals.
    (c) No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided herein to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give such signal.

  4. #4
    ROINAL Guest


    I wanted to follow up the outcome.

    I had my day in court defending myself against the plaintiff's attorney. I used the argument that I was driving with "assured clear distance ahead" and the minivan was not. The minivan's driver had admitted to the fault of the initial accident in her testimony when her attorney was arguing their complaint.

    I did some research and found perception and reaction times to be between .75-1.5 seconds. I proved I maneuvered my motorcycle to the left of the lane before applying my brakes, skidding, striking her on the left side of the rear hatch, and being ejected to the left of the vehicle. How far I traveled during the ejection proved I was mostly stopped and the trajectory of the ejection proved I was just a few feet from avoiding the accident she had caused.

    We both agreed on the speed we were traveling to be 30 MPH. I used a stopping distances chart to show stopping distance of 46 feet once brakes are applied. I argued her using the Ford Escort to stop instead of her brakes essentially made her stopping distance zero feet. I also argued that using the Escort to stop increased my perception and reaction time since I was not reacting to brake lights, but I was reacting to an unforeseen emergency stop.

    I estimated I needed 5-10 more feet to avoid the accident in front of me and her unsafe driving deprived me of 46 feet thus the plaintiff failed to use due care in protecting her own safety.

    The Judge ruled contributory negligence on the plaintiff and the case was ruled in my favor. In Alabama the plaintiff is not entitled to any recovery if they have contributory negligence. I walked out owing nothing.

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