Am I at fault for an accident if I hit a farm truck from behind because it was going about 15 to 20 mph on a highway posted at 65 mph?

Do I still bear liability since it was being driven at an unsafe speed?

Asked on August 19, 2014 under Accident Law, Oklahoma

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You would still be liable, since regardless of whether it was going full speed, or slow, or even was stopped (e.g. if it was broken down on the side of the road), you should not have hit it: you should have been traveling at a speed that would let you stop if there was an obstruction or obstacle in your path, and you should have been paying attention so as to see the truck ahead of you, and as soon as you noticed you were overtaking it rapidly, you should have braked and/or swerved around it. Not doing those things means you were driving negligently or carelessly, which would cause you to be at fault. When a car hits a large (i.e. a truck) stationary or slow-moving vehicle from behind, the rear driver is at fault, since he or she should have been able to stop or avoid the accident.

It may be the case that, as you write, the truck's driver would also be considered to be somewhat at fault, too, since he/she was evidently driving slower than it appropriate for a highway--whether or not that is the case, however, will depend on the exact circumstances. (For example: was it overloaded or incapable of driving highway speed, in which case the driver may be at fault for taking it on the highway? Or was it slow because it had just entered the highway and was still accelerating, or was slowing to turn/exit, or was slowing to avoid an obstacle or unsafe conditions, in which case he/she was not driving negligently or carelessly?)

But even if the truck driver was at fault, too, that would not eliminate your fault in hitting it from behind, and so would not eliminate your liability; at best, it  may act as a partial offset to your liability, and possibly reduce what you might have to pay if sued.


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