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Based on ruling 82016 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts

Car Accident – part II


Beit Din Eretz Hemda - Gazit

Shvat 5783
Case: The plaintiff (=pl) dropped off his children and started a three-point turn, and the defendant (=def) hit pl’s car. Pl sold the car for 3,000 NIS, rather than fix it. Since the car had been worth, based on the catalogue of used cars, 11,000 NIS, pl sued for 8,000 NIS. Additionally, pl sued for 2,600 NIS for the possible raising of his insurance premium if the courts incorrectly blame him. Pl claimed that he was well into his turn when def, who was going at a slow but steady speed and was looking elsewhere, hit him. Def claims that he was driving normally when pl apparently pulled out suddenly from perpendicular parking, not giving him chance to react. Def has a Mobileye anti-collision system, and the fact that it did not react proves that pl pulled out suddenly.

Ruling: [Last time we dealt with basic principles and the possible complications of the insurance company’s refusal to accept beit din’s ruling.]
Poskim posit that traffic laws are relevant in determining culpability. This can be either based on societal acceptance (Chishukei Chemed, Bava Kama 31a), the law of the land (Techumin XIX, pp. 258-270; our ruling 71004), or just helping to determine who went against the norm (Pitchei Choshen, Nezikin 1:(71)).
According to pictures taken after the accident, pl’s car had turned around 45 degrees and about a quarter of the car was still within the perpendicular parking area. Def’s car was in its lane. This, along with the place of collision being corner to corner, support def’s claim that pl unsafely entered the street’s driving lane. On the other hand, it is also possible that, as pl claimed, that he started to make a three-point turn, giving def, whom he saw, enough time to stop, but def did not notice him. Rule 44 of the traffic laws states that one may not turn around and thereby enter the opposite lane if it causes a disruption of the traffic or a danger. Rule 64 is even clearer regarding care that must be taken when pulling out of a parking space. This implies that the obligation to be careful is more incumbent on the one entering a new lane. Therefore, in this case we can determine that pl acted "without permission."
According to pl, def also acted without permission, as he was looking elsewhere and not on the road. However, pl has no proof, and there is no clear reason to think def was looking elsewhere (it was his own street). It is not clear that pl was even able to see def’s face. Def would have to take a Rabbinic oath that he was concentrating on the road, in lieu of which, batei din make compromises, in which their evaluation of the situation plays a role. Members of the beit din reasoned that there is no need for a compromise in this case. For one, pl definitely acted improperly, and we do not know about def, and there is an assumption that people drive responsibly. Also, according to the Shulchan Aruch (see last week), def has the advantage in that all agree that pl saw def and def did not see him. Therefore, def is exempt from paying for damages to pl’s car. For the same reasons, def is exempt from any raising of pl’s premium.

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