Wed | Dec 1, 2021

Driving while jobless

Published:Sunday | May 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Cedric Stephens Insurance HELPLINE

QUESTION: I was driving my car on the road; a sports utility vehicle was ahead of me. I hit the brakes and my car ran into the back of the SUV. We both came out. I took photographs, gave the driver my telephone number and agreed that we would go to the police station. The other driver made a report before me. I got a call from the station, went and gave a statement. I received a letter from the other driver's insurers about a claim. I recently lost my job, missed two payments to the insurers as a result of which they didn't honour the claim. So, it is now left up to me to fund the repairs of the SUV. I am quite willing to pay, but the estimated $300,000 is just too much since there appeared to be no major damage to the other vehicle. Can you please advise me what to do? Can I can be sued or challenge paying so much?


ANSWER: The words of the local proverb, 'Trouble no set like rain', came to mind after I read your email. First, it was the loss of your job. Second, it was missing two payments on your insurance premium, which, presumably, was due to the loss of your job. Driving too closely behind the SUV was the third link in the chain of events.

These seemingly random events can perhaps, mean - admittedly in hindsight, that the saying is both true and false!


Google lists almost 95 million items under the phrase 'driving distances behind cars'. The one that stood out among those that I read is attributed to Dr Charles McDaniel. He is the author of Parents Deserve a Brake, a CD programme that helps parents teach their teens to become safe drivers.

Dr McDaniel holds a PhD in curriculum development - highway-traffic safety - and has led many traffic safety initiatives across the US over several decades.

On the Safe Teen Driving Blog, Dr McDaniel writes: "For years, a safe following distance behind the vehicle in front of you was based on one car length (20 feet) for each 10 mph ... In the late 1960s, this was changed to the two-second rule. The two-second rule is adequate for speeds up to 35 mph. Today, many driving programmes and some states recommend a three-second following distance. We recommend a variable following distance, as follows:

Following Distance Driving Speed (seconds)(Km/h) 2 56.2 3 57.9 to 96.5 4 98.1 +

"Variable following distances can be easily measured. Pick a landmark, for example, a utility pole, a shadow, a bridge or even a mark on the road. Count 1001, 1002, 1003, etc, to see how long it takes to reach the landmark. Then adjust your speed to leave the appropriate distance between you and the vehicle ahead."

Many Jamaican drivers do not follow this sensible rule, not even on the toll roads where the speed limit is 110 kilometres per hour.

You are correct to assume responsibility for the accident. You were driving at an unsafe distance behind the SUV. That was the cause of the accident.


Since you will be funding the repair of the third party's vehicle, act like an insurance company. This means someone with the know-how should carefully examine the damage that was done to the SUV and compare that with the estimate of repair. Retain the services of a competent insurance loss adjuster. This should provide you with the assurance that the repair estimate is not excessive. Make sure that when you brief the loss adjuster that you share the photos that you took at the scene of the accident.

The next step in the process after the repair estimate for the SUV has been agreed to the satisfaction of the third party and you will be to find the money to pay the repairer.

I suggest that you speak with someone in the claims department of your insurance company. This will ensure that you do the right things to protect yourself with the necessary paperwork. Bear in mind also that rear-end accidents can cause personal injuries - whiplash - and that you may also be liable to pay loss-of-use expenses to the third party while her vehicle is undergoing repairs.

Since you caused the collision, the third party has the legal right to sue you, assuming that the matter is not properly resolved outside of the legal system.

Finally, please remember in all of this, not to lose perspective. Now that you have had your share of three bad things happening one after the other, you are probably now in line to win the Super Lotto!

Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, email: