Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Cedric Stephens | Lawbreakers and accident claims

Published:Sunday | February 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM

QUESTION: About three months ago, I was driving along Constant Spring Road towards Mary Brown's Corner in Kingston. It was at about 6:30 p.m. A front-end loader was travelling behind. Suddenly, a pedestrian ran across the road, forcing me to stop. The loader ran into its back, causing major damage. There were no licence plates on that vehicle. Its driver said that I caused the accident and should pay to fix my car. The cost of repair is $2.6 million. My car is insured under a third-party policy. Was I at fault? I reported the accident to the police, but the other driver hasn't done so yet. Is it possible to get compensation?

- D.H., Havendale.

INSURANCE HELPLINE: Experts in human behaviour would call the other driver's reaction to the collision an example of psychological projection. This is a type of response to a situation in which one person attributes the thoughts, feelings, behaviours and ideas which are perceived as undesirable to the other person.

Sigmund Freud, one of the founders of psychology, is said to have invented the term. He believed that people "used psychological projection to reduce their own stress or feelings of guilt, thus protecting themselves."

I have seen many cases where vehicles like the one that crashed into your car - which are designed for use on construction sites - are being driven on public roads in the same manner as those that are referred to as the red plates - de jure and de facto.

The other driver was entirely at fault. His vehicle was operating illegally. I bet that it was never examined by the authorities and does not have certificates of fitness or registration. It was very likely operating in violation of the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third-Party Risks) Act, and therefore was uninsured. Finally, it appears that the driver was driving too closely behind your car. He did not have enough space or time in which to safely react to the action you took to avoid hitting the pedestrian.

I would be most surprised if the other driver reported the accident to the police. He knows that if he does so, he will face prosecution. Section 10(1) of the Road Traffic Act reads: "A motor vehicle shall not be used on a road unless there has been issued in respect of the vehicle, and prior to the licensing of the vehicle, by a Traffic Area Authority, a certificate (in this act referred to as a 'certificate of fitness') that the prescribed conditions as to fitness are fulfilled in respect of the vehicle, and such certificate is in force in respect of the vehicle."

Section 14(1) of the same act states that: "Every motor vehicle or trailer kept for use on a road shall be registered in a book to be called the 'Motor Vehicles Register' and shall carry registration plates in the prescribed manner and such registration shall be effective for the whole period during which such motor vehicle or trailer is so used."

Subsection (3) says that "if any registration plate or licence ... is not so affixed and kept affixed or if being so affixed, is in any way obscured or rendered or allowed to become not easily distinguishable, the person driving or using the motor vehicle or trailer shall be guilty of an offence and the motor vehicle or trailer shall be liable to be seized and kept in the possession of the Police until the requirements of this Act and regulations thereunder have been complied with".

Section 4(1) of The Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third-Party Risks) Act makes motor insurance compulsory.

"It shall not be lawful for any person to use, or to cause or permit any other person to use a motor vehicle on a road, unless there is in force in relation to the user of the vehicle by that person or that other person, as the case may be, such a policy of insurance or such a security in respect of third-party risks as complies with the requirements of this Act."

Non-compliance can lead to a fine and imprisonment.

Rear-end collisions are very common. According to attorneys.com: "If a driver's vehicle is struck from behind by another vehicle, the resulting accident is nearly always the striking driver's fault. This holds true regardless of the reason for the first driver's stop or slow down. Why? Because basic traffic laws mandate that a driver must be able to come to a safe stop if the vehicle(s) ahead stops or slows down. Incidentally, this traffic rule also governs sudden stops. If the subsequent driver cannot come to a safe stop, chances are he or she is not driving in a safe manner and probably not as safely as the driver in front of him or her."

Brake, a United Kingdom road-safety charity, has an excellent website. One section deals exclusively with speed, speed limits and stopping distances. The main takeaway: braking distances are much longer for larger and heavier vehicles, like front end loaders, than the average five-seat family car.

You can obtain compensation. The main challenge that you face will be to locate the owner of the front-end loader. But first you'll have to get a skilled attorney and a competent investigator.

- Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: aegis@flowja.com.