I’m going to liberally steal a phrase from one of my favorite artists, the Late Notorious BIG, when you are in Florida the Mo Fog, the Mo Problems, the Mo Accidents. I was driving from Tampa to our Lakeland office to prepare for depositions in Winter Haven when I hit some serious fog on I-4. While you would think most drivers would have slowed down, most kept speeding by even though visibility was poor. Even after I hit US 27 near Davenport it was amazing how, even on that stretch of road, it is shocking how many drivers operated their cars as if it was business as usual.
Too many motorists, regardless of whether they are in Orlando, Winter Haven or Lakeland assume that Florida does not have specific rules when they are operating a car in fog. Surprise, that’s not the case. In Florida every car, truck, tractor trailer, and motorcycle driver or rider is required to operate their vehicle at a speed so that it can be stopped, at any time, within the range of their vision.
Under Florida law when a motorist fails to stop in time to avoid a collision with another car that should have been visible from a sufficient distance to enable the motorist to make a timely stop, that driver normally gets a ticket and is considered responsible for the accident.
What many drivers fail to realize is that the law holds you to the same careful standard whether your vision is obscured by rain or fog. Since many times the roads are dry when fog rolls in, too many motorists assume they do not have to exercise the same level of care as if it was raining. That’s not the case.
The Rule of the Road when it comes to car accidents and fog in Florida is regardless of whether you are on Highway 17 heading from Bartow to Winter Haven, on 27 from Lake Wales to Haines City, or on Pine Hills Road in Orlando, every driver must operate their car, truck or ride their motorcycle in such a manner as to be able to stop within the range of their vision at all times.
If you are involved in an accident and you believe fog was a contributing factor in impairing the other driver’s vision there a few things you should do immediately.
First, many people know to take pictures of the vehicles. While lawyers can hire expert meteorologists to testify as to the level of fog and visibility in the accident, words aren’t as effective as pictures. If you have a phone you are any firm’s best accident reconstruction expert. take as many photos of the cars, the scene, and more importantly, the fog from the view point of the at fault driver. Fog goes as quickly as it comes. You will need this evidence to fight the traffic ticket if you get one, to avoid increased insurance rates if they suggest you were responsible for the accident, or to pursue a claim for damages against the driver who actually caused the accident.
Photos are great but everyone, especially insurance adjusters, can’t really argue against video. Take several 15 second video clips of the weather and the view points for you and the other driver. If you take longer videos it becomes harder to share via text message and email.
I can’t count how many times people have come into my office in disbelief that they got a ticket for the accident. I’ve had countless clients from Lakeland and Winter Haven Florida tell me I didn’t even know I was at fault for the car accident until I got the ticket in the mail. The same thing happens in Tampa and Orlando, Florida as well when a driver is involved in a car crash. almost every time, they say the officer never spoke with me. Lawyers, Traffic Court Judges and Insurance Companies all read and believe what is in the police report. Always politely insist on the officer including your version of the accident in the report.
If you later read the report and discover it is not what really happened, and that happens more often than you think, you can ask to speak to the officer or the officer’s supervisor and insist they amend the report or file a supplemental report.
Whether your car accident happens in Tampa, Lakeland, Winter Haven or Orlando, you may do everything I suggested and still end up with a ticket. But you are hurt, does that mean you do not have a case against the other driver. The answer is No. Your case maybe harder but it does not mean you do not have a case. Traffic tickets are not admissible in auto accident lawsuits. However, all the evidence you collected at the scene is admissible.
Also police officers cannot testify that they gave someone a ticket or offer their opinion who they believe was responsible for the accident. They didn’t see it so the law says they can’t talk about it. They can testify that they observed debris or the conditions on the road. That’s about it. They can’t even testify what you or the other driver told them.
So if you’ve been seriously hurt in a car crash in Tampa, Lakeland, Winter Haven or Orlando, due to fog and you got the ticket, talk to a lawyer and show them your evidence. Your justice may have been delayed but it has not necessarily been denied.