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Visibility Issues in Auto Accidents


Personal Injury

The Gainesville Automobile Collision Attorneys, of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A., recognize that visibility-related issues are a common contributing cause to many motor vehicle crashes in Florida. There are a variety of factors that can affect a motorist’s visibility, including weather conditions, time of day, and even location. Visibility issues in car accidents serve as the perfect example of the potential difficulties associated with interpreting reasonableness.

Consider the following inquiry: If a motorist adheres to the minimum and maximum posted speed limits, then are they operating their vehicle in a reasonable manner? While most may be compelled to answer this question with a definitive ‘yes’, the more appropriate answer is ‘not always,’ ‘not necessarily,’ ‘maybe,’ or ‘depends.’

Establishing the presence or absence of reasonableness, is a critical component to auto negligence actions. Motorists have a duty to operate their vehicle in a reasonable manner under given circumstances. When a motorist breaches this duty, they can be negligently liable for their unreasonable actions. However, the highly circumstantial nature of the term ‘reasonableness,’ is such that defining it in a manner that would apply to every type of auto accident, is not nearly as simple as one may think.

NOW, consider reasonableness on a more simplistic level—in the absence of an accident.

What if driver, while traveling within the posted speed range, was intoxicated, failed to turn on headlights, made improper lane change, or was distracted driving? Certainly this would be unreasonable, even if no accident ever occurred.

AND NOW, apply this concept to visibility issues.

What if it there was heavy rain, thick fog, forest fire related smog? Likewise, what if the position of the sun, lack of street lighting, or other nighttime related reduction in visual capacity obstructs a motorist view? Would a motorist who travels within the minimum and maximum posted speed limits, then, be considered to be driving in a reasonable manner?

Well, in most cases, these questions cannot be answered without taking into consideration the totality of the circumstances. In other words, the ability to properly assess reasonableness requires the simultaneous assessment of all relevant facts surrounding the incident. In short, the determination is on a case-by-case basis because every situation is different.

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Consider the following hypothetical scenarios. For explanatory purposes, assume that the facts provided have been admitted to or otherwise proven.

     Scenario 1:
Two motorists are traveling at a lawful rate of speed. Motorist 1 is driving at nighttime within the posted speed limit. Driver 2 is doing the same, but has the driver’s physician has advised against driving after dark.
     Scenario 2:
Three motorists are traveling at the posted speed limit, in the same direction, at a time of the day when the glare of the sun is particularly strong. Driver 1 is an experienced driver, is wearing sunglasses, and is in a vehicle that has sun visor. Driver 2 is a new driver, is not wearing sunglasses, and is driving a vehicle with a broken visor, as well as cracks in the windshield that obstruct the driver’s view. Driver 3 is operating a motorcycle, without protective eyewear.
      Scenario 3:
Several motorists are traveling along a roadway within the posted speed range, and unbeknownst to the drivers, they are approaching heavy smoke due to forest fires. In this particular area, fog and smoke are common, and drivers have come to expect that a fixed messaging system will warn them of such conditions. However, the warning message system is broken, and although the local entity responsible for its maintenance is aware of the problem, no repairs have been made, despite the presence of several active fires in the area that have led to numerous accidents in recent days.
     Scenario 4:
As Driver 1 observes the speed limit, while traveling in a residential neighborhood, Driver 2 is backing out of his driveway. Driver 1 is unable to see Driver 2 as he exits, because his view is obstructed by a large overgrown tree that sits upon a portion of land that the county is responsible for maintaining. Residents have repeatedly complained of this particular tree. Driver 2 is unable to see the oncoming vehicle, because the homeowner failed to trim the hedges on his property in a manner that would allow him to safely exit his driveway.
     Scenario 5:
Two motorist are traveling five miles under the posted speed limit during a heavy rain storm. Driver 1 is utilizing his headlights and has brand new tires. Driver 2 is not utilizing his headlights, and the visible tread on his tires has diminished far below the 2/32 inch minimum required by Florida law.

NOW, assuming all facts in the above-stated hypotheticals to be true, and regardless as to whether the driver’s conduct results in an automobile collision, reconsider the concept of reasonableness.

AND NOW, let’s revisit the initial inquiry presented earlier, but in the context of a visibility-related accident—If a motorist adheres to the minimum and maximum posted speed limits, then are they operating their vehicle in a reasonable manner? The answer—a definite ‘maybe.’

Certainly it is easy to see how standards of reasonableness are not only open to interpretation, but nearly always dependent upon the circumstances involved. As such, following an accident, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side. The Gainesville Injury Attorneys, of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A., possess the proficiency and knowledge in Florida law necessary to provide effective representation and maximize victim’s financial recovery. With decades of practice experience, we maintain a dedicated approach to client relations, and will aggressively  fight for any and all compensation that you may be entitled to.