Insurance Helpline With Cedric Stephens
Question: My car was travelling along St John's Road on January 3 of this year. It was about to enter the bypass road leading into Spanish Town. The traffic on the bypass road stopped to allow traffic to enter. My car was immediately behind a Toyota Hilux. When the Hilux drove out, my car followed. A Toyota Corolla which was travelling on the bypass road overtook the line of traffic that had stopped and hit the right rear quarter panel of my car. Three persons who witnessed the accident said the driver of the Corolla was at fault. I have been trying since the accident occurred to obtain compensation without any success. Can you please help me?
- O. W., St Catherine.
HELPLINE: I am very sorry to learn about the difficulties that you are having with obtaining funds to repair the damage your car suffered nearly nine months ago.
When we spoke, I told you that the third party insurers and I were in contact. I did not provide you with any details.
I was unsure where the accident occurred and had not studied the company's email.
Getting and interpreting facts is very important in deciding who is at fault in collisions. Opinions based only on beliefs are not the same thing as conclusions which are built on evidence.
I used the application Google Earth to make a computer-generated visit to the scene of the accident in St Catherine. St John's Road - which is also referred to as the road leading to the Dovecot Cemetery - is clearly shown on the satellite image of the area. I can see very plainly the two points where that roadway meets with what you call the bypass road leading into Spanish Town when I zoom in.
The application and my road map name it as the A1.
I pass this intersection to and from my visits to the north coast. Given the speeds at which vehicles drive along the A1 and the number of persons who use St John's Road to make right turns to enter into the A1, this is an intersection that should be controlled by traffic lights.
Those three factors - speed, the number of vehicles making right turns from St John's Road, and the absence of traffic signals - when added to the low Ievel of discipline of many drivers, would, I believe, make this a notorious place for smash-ups.
What do the authorities say about drivers who are entering a major road, in your case the A1, from a minor road, in this instance, the St John's Road? Here is what the author of Jamaican Road User's Guide says under road junction operation: "Do approach all intersections with caution ... proceed through cautiously. Bring your vehicle to a full stop at all 'Stop' signs and proceed only when it is safe to do so."
The guide has been endorsed by the chief technical director of the Ministry of Local Government and Works and chairman of the Island Traffic Authority.
Section 171 of The UK Highway Code - which does not apply in Jamaica - is more specific and provides a much better guide. It reads: "You MUST stop behind the line at a junction with a 'Stop' sign and a solid white line across the road. Wait for a safe gap in the traffic before you move off."
Section 172 continues: "The approach to a junction may have a 'Give Way' sign or a triangle marked on the road. You MUST give way to traffic on the main road when emerging from a junction with broken white lines across the road."
Here is what the insurers of the third party said in response to your argument that the driver of the other vehicle was at fault:
"We accept our insured's account of the accident. It is supported by the account of his passenger and the police who arrived at the scene. The third party's driver (the person who was driving your car) was entering a major roadway from a minor one and our client and his passenger are adamant that he was not overtaking at the time of the accident. A vehicle before our insured was turning left on to St John's Road from the Spanish Town bypass and our insured proceeded to pass on the right which is permitted. Having looked at the scene of the accident and the direction of travel, if there really had been a line of traffic that our insured was overtaking, there would have been other vehicles impacted by the collision between our insured and the third party."
The cards appear to be stacked against the driver of your vehicle. He was entering a major road from a minor road.
Did he come to a full stop at the stop sign? When he proceeded to enter the main road in order to make a right turn, did he exercise any caution? Did he wait for a safe gap in the flow of traffic or did he simply follow the vehicle that was ahead?
Based on the information that you sent me, the research that I have done and in the absence of answers to the questions that I have posed, I find it very hard to disagree with the decision of the insurers of the third party.
Your driver caused the collision.
Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and free advice about the management of risks and insurance. email@example.com SMS/text message to 812-7233