Ask a driver what happened in the moments before her vehicle plowed into persons or property, whether the collision is a fatal pedestrian crash or a single-vehicle fender-bender, and you are likely to hear the same excuse: "I lost control of the car." While this may be a true statement, it is often an attempt to abdicate responsibility.
Our Panama City car accident injury attorney knows that a prior action (or inaction, such as failure to perform routine maintenance) by the driver often led to the loss of control, meaning the driver is indeed at-fault and liable for the collision. Even when that is not the case, the "control excuse" may help lead an injured party to other possible sources of compensation.
On Friday May 16, as reported by WMBB, a late-night, multi-car accident on 231 between Game Farm Road and Edward Avenue left several people seriously injured and closed two lanes of traffic for part of the overnight period. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the driver of a Dodge Neon lost control while travelling south on 231. As the Neon spun out, it collided with an Explorer and a Dodge Durango. The driver of the Dodge and both the driver and a passenger in the Neon were transported to Bay Medical Sacred Heart. All three were listed in serious condition.
An article on the How Stuff Works site that responds to the question "How do you stop an out-of-control car?" provides insight into some of the different circumstances that lead to a perceived loss of control. The article splits loss of control incidents into two primary categories: mechanical issues and bad road conditions.
A range of mechanical issues can lead to a loss of control, as can other equipment problems (ex. worn tires). Brake failure and runaway acceleration are two sides of the same coin, with both threatening a driver's ability to stop the vehicle. Mechanical issues are often hallmarks of a poorly maintained vehicle. Failing to replace brake pads, not checking fluids, or ignoring a manufacturer's recall are examples of decisions that show a knowing disregard for safety.
The driver should have known that continuing to drive without addressing these issues and without performing at least minimal maintenance was putting people at risk. This is negligent (see Florida Civil Jury Instruction 401.4), if not reckless, behavior that can render the driver liable for any injuries caused by an accident that stems from the poorly-maintained vehicle. In some cases, the manufacturer or seller may also be liable to an injured victim.
Bad weather and/or poor road conditions can also lead to a perceived loss of control. Sometimes this category overlaps with the previous grouping because it is foreseeable that a bald tire could lead to a perilous skid in wet or icy conditions. Often, the loss of control in bad weather stems from the driver's failure to use the care called for by the circumstances. For example, severe rain often calls for driving well below the usual speed limit.
Again, these failures often amount to negligence and, in turn, to liability. Although there are some cases in which the driver did all that was reasonably possible, in most cases the loss of control is a sign of carelessness rather than an excuse. Additionally, as discussed in previous blog entries, there are some cases in which a road condition may give rise to municipal liability.
Ultimately, the lesson of this post is that a statement such as "I lost control of the car" is not the end of the inquiry or a possible civil suit - it's the beginning. A statement, intended as an excuse, can actually help point to a decision or act that gives rise to liability. If you have been injured in a crash and believe someone else was at fault, do not accept excuses. Call for a free consultation with our experienced Florida Panhandle injury lawyer.