I entered the freeway from another freeway during heavy traffic. Having only been behind the vehicle I just merged behind for about 5 seconds. They have their right blinker on to merge right into the off ramp lane. A second later they lock their brakes out of no where. I see they locked up and Im force to do the same. I was atleast 2 car lengths from they to allow another car to merge in front of me. I still hit them. My car received most of the damage.
Im sure the driver was only looking to the right and wasnt watching the front until it was too late which is why they locked up when the rest of the freeway is moving along smoothly. The insurance companies are putting me at fault. I dont believe I am.
Most states observe the 'rear end doctrine' which essentially presumes negligence on the part of the person that ran into the back of another vehicle. However, this presumption of negligence can be rebutted in certain circumstances, such as the driver in front using a cellphone or not paying attention. You need to do your homework and obtain statements from any and all witnesses in order to uncover any distractions that may have caused the driver in front to lock up his brakes.
Unfortunately, given the facts you described, you were at fault because you failed to leave enough distance between your car and the car in front of you no matter the reason they slammed on their brakes.
You may be able to argue they were partially negligent because they had no good reason to slam on brakes, but yu will need witnesses to that effect.
The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.
The "stopped short" defense which you rely upon is not great because it violates several rules of the road including the duty to keep a safe distance behind other traffic and the duty to keep a lookout. A motor vehicle operator can not assume the car in front will keep moving at its present speed because anything can and will happen to which the driver in front must react.
This answer is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies.
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