A man driving a car on a rural road in Waterville was reportedly blinded by bright sun when he rear-ended a horse-drawn hayride recently, injuring seven people – one critically.
According to the Bangor Daily News, the collision happened on Christmas Day when the operators, S&S Carriage Rides, were offering rides to volunteers and guests of the Waterville Elks Lodge.
The force of impact was such that a 56-year-old woman was knocked off the back of the wagon and onto the road, where she was then run over by the car. The seat in which the 42-year-old wagon operator was sitting was broken, though the horses were not hurt. The 73-year-old car driver wasn’t hurt. Seven people in total were taken to the hospital, though the 56-year-old woman had to be flown by helicopter to a health care facility in Portland.
All of those injured were in their 40s and 50s, though there were two children aboard – ages 2 and 4 – who were not hurt.
Investigations have been launched by local police, with assistance from state police, as well as a nearby agency and the state fire marshal’s office. Drivers of both the wagon and the car were transported to a nearby hospital to conduct a blood draw, which is standard procedure anytime there is an auto accident with injuries. However, authorities have stated a preliminary investigation hasn’t turned up any evidence that speed or alcohol were factors.
While these elements may be grounds for criminal action, there may still be ample evidence for a finding of negligence. In most rear-end collisions, there is the rebuttable presumption that the driver who struck from behind was at-fault. It would be up to that driver to prove why he or she was not at fault.
Sun glare is not a condition that typically absolves a driver of harm. There have been some cases in other states where drivers have used the “emergency doctrine” in sun glare-related accidents. The emergency doctrine can be used as a defense in the event of emergencies under certain conditions. Generally, the criteria includes:
- Driver is faced with sudden/ unexpected circumstance;
- That unexpected circumstance leaves little or no time for consideration or thought;
- The circumstances forced the driver to be so disturbed – and reasonably so – they had to make a fast decision without fully deliberating alternate courses of conduct.
In these situations, a driver might not be negligent if they can show they took reasonable action under the circumstances and they weren’t the ones who created the emergency.
In a case like this, of course the driver didn’t create the sun glare. However, he may have a hard time arguing he could not have reasonably anticipated it while driving in the late afternoon. Although the emergency doctrine might apply if the sun suddenly appeared in one’s eyes without warning, generally there would be an expectation for a driver who can’t see directly in front of them to don sunglasses, pull down the visor or pull over until it’s safe to continue on.
Authorities in this case are inspecting the driver’s vehicle to ascertain whether it has any mechanical defects or other issues that may have played a role in the crash.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Woman Remains in Critical Condition in Wagon Accident, Dec. 27, 2015, By Abigail Curtis, Bangor Daily News
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