Driver Who Got Out Of Vehicle After Accident Gets Hit By Another Car

Car Accidents

Joseph P. Riley died after being getting out of his car after an accident and then being struck by another vehicle traveling on I-4 in Polk County, Florida on January 8, 2017.  This incident began with an accident between two women resulting in one woman’s vehicle stopped in the left lane of I-4.  Lori Jones struck the rear end of a vehicle driven by Tammy Riley going eastbound.  Riley’s vehicle came to rest 300 yards off to the right shoulder of the highway while Jones stopped in the left lane.  Joseph Riley then struck Jones’ vehicle in the left lane and pushed it approximately 60 feet and onto the left shoulder of the roadway.  The crash damage to Joseph Riley’s vehicle cut the cable to the battery so that the lights stopped working.  Joseph Riley then got out of his vehicle and struck moments later by a BMW driven by Peter Moran.  Moran claims that he was attempting to avoid the wreckage when he struck Joseph Riley.

This Case Is Really Three Different Accidents

This case should be seen as three separate and distinct car accidents rather than one.  Lori Jones is responsible for the first accident because she struck the rear end of Tammy Riley’s car.  It is unclear whether Lori Jones would have had an ability to get her vehicle off the roadway.  Assuming that she was able to get her vehicle off the roadway, she had a statutory duty to get her vehicle off the highway as is discussed below.  Stopping a disabled vehicle on the highway is a traffic offense when you have the ability to stop off the roadway.

Florida Law On Stopping On The Highway

Section 316.194, Fla. Stat. states the following in regard to an accident such as this one:

(1) Upon any highway outside of a municipality, no person shall stop, park, or leave standing any vehicle, whether attended or unattended, upon the paved or main-traveled part of the highway when it is practicable to stop, park, or so leave the vehicle off such part of the highway; but in every event an unobstructed width of the highway opposite a standing vehicle shall be left for the free passage of other vehicles, and a clear view of the stopped vehicle shall be available from a distance of 200 feet in each direction upon the highway.
(2) This section shall not apply to the driver or owner of any vehicle which is disabled while on the paved or main-traveled portion of a highway in such manner and to such extent that it is impossible to avoid stopping and temporarily leaving the disabled vehicle in such position, or to passenger-carrying buses temporarily parked while loading or discharging passengers, where highway conditions render such parking off the paved portion of the highway hazardous or impractical.
My opinion of the way this accident happened with Ms. Riley stopping some 300 yards away is that this initial accident occured while moving down the highway at some speed significantly greater than zero (in other words, they were not crawling).  When that impact occurred, Ms. Jones should have been able to coast onto the shoulder and out of harm’s way.  If this is in fact what happened, then this is where the legal chain of causation begins.

Jones Is At Least Partially Responsible For Joseph Riley’s Death

Jones is likely going to be held legally responsible for the accident with Joseph Riley to a large degree because she was in the best position to prevent the accident by not stopping on the roadway and, if she couldn’t get off the roadway, she would have had an obligation to put her hazard lights on to warn other drivers that her vehicle was disabled.  There was no mention of hazard lights in the news.  Joseph Riley might also be held responsible for this second accident to some degree he probably should have been able to see Jones blocking the highway after her crash.  As such, Joseph Riley may have been able to avoid the second accident from occurring.  We will never know for sure, but the estate of Joseph Riley should bring an automobile negligence claim against Jones for her degree of responsibility for the accident and for wrongful death.  While Jones would not have known that Mr. Riley was going to get out of his car and get hit by another vehicle, it is clearly within the reasonable zone of danger after this accident because Mr. Riley wasn’t safe to stay in his vehicle in the left lane.  The correct thing for him to do would have been to get out quickly and get as far away from the highway as he could.  The fact that he got hit and killed doing so is still within the original zone of danger created by the original incident (stopping in the left lane) and Jones will likely be held legally responsible for his wrongful death too.

Moran Likely Has Some Degree Of Legal Culpability As Well

Under the circumstances, Moran likely shares legal responsibility for Mr. Riley’s wrongful death to a large degree as well because he should have been able to see the crashed vehicles in the roadway, other vehicles avoiding the accident, or reflectors on the back of Riley’s vehicle even with no lights activated.  If Moran had been paying full attention to the roadway, he likely could have gotten over into the center or right hand lane and completely avoided the accident.  Moran is likely responsible for the wrongful death of Joseph Riley as he had the last clear chance to avoid and did not take adequate action in time to avoid.  While he says that he was attempting to avoid the cars on the roadway, his response was likely late and inadequate.  A jury may have to decide what percentage of fault each party, including Joseph Riley, have in this accident.

Call Us For Help With Your Case

The interesting thing about claims like this one is that the insurance companies for all parties involved will likely make payments (except for Tammy Riley) to the others for some degree of fault in exchange for a release.  I would expect that the insurance companies involved will want to do a settlement conference to work out how much of each respective limit is paid to each individual claimant.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident in Polk County, Florida, please contact a Lakeland car accident attorney for a free case review.  A complicated sequence of events such as this one should be carefully evaluated by a car accident attorney so that you make claims against all of the responsible parties.

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