I was driving South Bound on a 2 lane road, with a median on the left, approaching an intersection that is not a street, but an off ramp from a highway. To the right is the traffic that would be exiting from the highway, and to the left there is no road. Our light was green, and had been green since I could see the light. I am car number 4 driving along at the limit (not above). All of a sudden, I heard lots of honking in front of me and other cars started braking and then swerving out of our lane to the right lane. I started braking right away when I saw and heard the honking. Car number 1 had decided to do a u-turn in that intersection, so the two cars in front of me were able to see this, and braked/honked, and swerved to the right. Once they did this, then I saw Car 1, now coming to a full stop in the middle of the intersection with his left turn signal on. As I mentioned, I already had started braking when I saw the commotion and braking of the cars in front of me, but it was too close, and raining and slippery, and I still rear-end the other driver's car. He then did the U-turn and stopped on the side of the road facing north bound, the light was still green at that point, so I followed him and stopped behind him.
Police showed up later and talked to both of us, although I didn't hear much of what the other driver said. I am not sure if he was given a ticket or summons as well.
I want to know what I should expect. The summons letter does not mention very much in terms of options, or ability to request disclosure. What will happen at the summons? I have read around this site a lot, and it seems like Careless Driving is very serious, but also a hard charge to prove, and I feel that I was in fact, paying attention to the traffic and driving carefully. I braked as soon as I saw others braking, but can't see 4 cars in front of me. I was not following too closely, but once a car in front of you swerves out of your lane to reveal a stopped object, there is not much time for anything. I slammed the brakes, but knew I did not have time to check my blind spot for swerving into the right lane, which would have been careless for not only me, but a potential other driver. Also my 2 month old was in the car seat in the back right, so I was not going to blindly change lanes. I also could not avoid the collision to the left because of the median.
After telling the insurance company what happened, they called and said that I was not at fault, and that the other insurance company has accepted liability, and that I didn't need to pay anything. Will this also help my case?
Any insight to this would be great, as I want to know,
1) what will happen
2) chances of it getting dropped
3) chances of lesser charge (still not desirable though)
Thank you all so much for your help, and this great site that has tons of information on it.
Now I am not sure how to do it, but it would nice if you could get something from insurance saying the other company accepted full fault, as this COULD possibly help your case. Maybe somebody else can chime in on if this is possible/feasible.
The summons date on the ticket is NOT your trial/court date and the police officer will not be there and none of the witnesses will be there (trial date will be set for a later date, but you still need to show up for the summons date). The prosecutor will probably meet with you before the Justice of the Peace comes out, and may or may not offer you a plea deal. My advice is that even if they offer you a plea deal, you should ask if you can review the disclosure before you decide how to plead.
So your options at the summons date are:
(i) plead guilty (not recommended);
(ii) plead not guilty and request disclosure and a trial date (recommended if they do not offer you any plea deal);
(iii) request disclosure before you decide how to plead, and set another summons date (recommended if they offer you a plea deal);
Remember it is not your trial/court date so don't worry too much about what happens at the summons date.
And really there is no way to know whether you can easily beat the charge until you review the disclosure (officers notes). Once you get a copy of officers notes, then post them here so we can review them.
That's why there's currently very little in terms of options. Once you appear at your summons, the ball will start rolling and you can start from there. You don't have to stress out too much as it's more of an appearance than anything else.
Insurance providers all use the industry standard Fault Determination Rules to determine who is at fault for an accident. It's not the same as being charged by a police officer under the HTA. You could beat a charge in regards to an accident and still be hit with a chargeable accident by your provider. For the most part, they are treated separately.
Take note that Careless Driving is a serious offence. You may not have been charged by your insurance company for a chargeable accident, but they'll roast you if Careless Driving gets dumped on your driving record. It's the worst of the worst. Stunt, racing, impaired driving, driving without insurance and or license, hit and run... and Careless Driving. It's all treated the same. 100% increase and the possibility they'll just cancel your policy altogether. There's a lot to lose.
Chances are you'll be offered a plea deal. Most likely they're going to offer you a minor charge (eg. following too closely). Your insurance provider may not even charge you for a first minor offense or they might issue a surcharge at something like 5%. If you compare it to Careless, it's not even close.
There's some people who will argue Careless Driving is handed out way too much and becomes a blanket charge for lots of events. It probably is, but it's your insurance on the line at the end of the day. A plea deal isn't all that bad in this type of situation. You got to know when to pick your battles. You can always review disclosure up until your trial date and take a plea then. Maybe you get lucky and the officer moves to Mexico. If you're the type of person who doesn't like this type of thing hovering over your head for a year or so, you can accept a plea deal sooner than later and move on. It's up to you.
My summons is in 3 days, so I will let you all know how it goes.
So glad it's over now. Thank you again for all the insights, really really appreciate it.