Freeways and interstates in Rhode Island can be some of the most dangerous places for auto vehicle accidents. The variable speeds and lane mergers that occur near onramps and offramps can increase the risk of a crash, as well as the damage caused in an accident. The Providence division of the Rhode Island Superior Court recently issued a bench ruling for a personal injury claim filed by a driver who was hurt in a crash on I-95 that was allegedly caused by the defendant who was attempting to merge onto the interstate.
According to the facts discussed in the judicial ruling, the plaintiff in the recently decided case was traveling northbound on Interstate 95 in Providence when he approached a slowdown on the right side of the interstate. The defendant was attempting to merge onto the freeway when he abruptly traveled across two lanes and into the lane that the plaintiff was driving in. The plaintiff avoided directly hitting the defendant by changing lanes, but the defendant’s vehicle did strike the side of the plaintiff’s car, causing property damage and minor injuries.
For a plaintiff to prevail in a negligence case (such as a motor vehicle accident) in Rhode Island, the plaintiff must demonstrate to the court that it is more likely than not that the defendant owed the plaintiff some duty of care, violated that duty, and the plaintiff was hurt as a proximate cause of the defendant’s violation of the duty. The Superior court applied this framework to the facts of this case and ruled that the defendant had a duty to avoid entering the plaintiff’s lane of travel. The defendant’s failure to honor this duty resulted in the collision, which was the cause of the injuries to the plaintiff. The court did determine that the plaintiff was traveling at an unsafe speed before the accident, and his damage award was reduced by 10% to account for his portion of fault.