Way v. Green – Proving Duty of Care Breach in Crash Cases

There are three core elements that have to be proven in any negligence lawsuit – whether it’s a car accident or a slip-and-fall at the grocery store. Those elements are:

  • A duty of care. Defendant has to owe plaintiff some duty to act with reasonable care in the situation.
  • Breach of duty.
  • Causation of compensable injuries. The breach of duty caused plaintiff to suffer actual injuries. street2

The absence of any of these elements will result in a case likely being dismissed or decided against plaintiff in summary judgment – before it ever even reaches the trial phase.

That’s why our Spartanburg accident lawyers carefully weigh the facts of each case during the initial consultation, to determine whether there are valid grounds on which to claim compensation.

Recently in the case of Way v. Green, before the Rhode Island Supreme Court, the failure of plaintiffs to establish a breach of duty of care resulted in the claim being decided on summary judgment in favor of defendant.

In figuring out what went wrong, we analyze the facts as laid forth in court records.

The crash occurred back in 2009, when three individuals were traveling eastbound in separate vehicles in Providence. It was a two-way street, with a single lane running in each direction. It was about 12:30 p.m. when the first vehicle in that line of cars stopped near the entrance of a store for the opportunity to make a left turn into a parking lot. Vehicle No. 2 made a complete stop while waiting for Vehicle No. 1 to make the turn. These two vehicles were stopped for several minutes.

Then the third car, Vehicle No. 3, approached and rear-ended Vehicle No. 2. Driver of Vehicle No. 1 heard the impact of that traffic collision before feeling Vehicle No. 2 slam into the back of her car.

Both the driver and passenger in Vehicle No. 3 acknowledge that driver of Vehicle No. 2 was stopped at the time of the crash.

In any rear-end collision, there is a rebuttable presumption of fault. That is, the vehicle in the rear is presumed to be at-fault, unless they can show otherwise. Drivers traveling behind other vehicles have a duty to maintain a safe speed and distance from the drivers ahead. Still, drivers ahead have a duty not to stop suddenly or unexpectedly when it isn’t necessary.

Driver of Vehicle No. 1 filed a lawsuit against drivers of both Vehicle No. 2 and Vehicle No. 3 for personal injuries she and her passenger sustained in this crash, seeking recovery for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages.

Driver of Vehicle No. 2 filed a motion for summary judgment, denying liability. Trial court granted that motion over plaintiff objection, and plaintiff appealed.

Before the state supreme court, plaintiff argued defendant driver of Vehicle No. 2 was negligent because he stopped his vehicle immediately behind her vehicle, rather than leaving sufficient space between the two. Had he allowed more space between vehicles, she asserts, the impact of Vehicle No. 3 striking Vehicle No. 2 wouldn’t have caused the collision with Vehicle No. 1. She classified this as “tailgating.”

The state supreme court found there was no evidence presented to show how far away the two vehicles were from each other at the time of impact. Because of this failure to present this basic material fact, there was not enough to show defendant breached his duty of care. The summary judgment for defendant was affirmed.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Way v. Green, Dec. 8, 2015, Rhode Island Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Caitlyn Jenner Faces Third Lawsuit Following Fatal Four-Car Crash, Dec. 12, 2015, Spartanburg Accident Lawyer Blog

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