Drivers of motor vehicles have a duty to make reasonable observations to determine that a movement can be made with safety to others and to give a proper signal or warning of his intention when others may be effected. The duties of lookout and signaling are often set out in statutes and require ordinary care on the part of the motorist. Therefore, emergency situations may arise requiring a sudden stop under conditions which preclude the giving of a signal.
Failure to signal to a following driver may be negligence when others are injured as a result of the failure to warn. Determining liability in sudden stop cases often depends on the particular circumstances of the case. Common factors which courts consider include whether a signal was given or not, whether there was an emergency which excused the giving of a signal, and whether the absence of a signal actually caused the accident.
In cases where a collision was caused by a sudden stop because of traffic ahead, courts generally hold that a driver cannot be held liable because of the suddenness of a stop. Instead, courts hold that all drivers moving in congested traffic are under a duty to anticipate the likelihood of sudden and unsignaled stops.
Where stops are made because of traffic signs or signals, drivers who stop suddenly are usually not found liable. Courts usually find that the giving of a signal is excused or the following driver was as much under a duty to see and obey the signal as the stopping driver.
A driver who negligently comes to a sudden and unsignaled stop may also be liable to others injured as a result of his negligence, even though his own vehicle may not have been directly involved in the accident. Therefore, it has been found that a stopping driver was liable in a collision between a following vehicle and one approaching from another direction, a collision between following vehicles, a collision with a crossing vehicle, or where another vehicle, because of the sudden stop, goes off the road or strikes a pedestrian.
Additionally, a stopping or slowing driver may be held liable to a passenger in his car where his negligence causes injury to the passenger, either as a result of a collision with another vehicle or from being thrown about in or thrown out of the stopping car.
If you have been involved in an auto accident caused by a sudden stop, you should contact an attorney immediately. A personal injury attorney can help prove your case and assert your right to recover damages for your injuries.