Motorist following traffic rules not liable for injuries

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I was driving my car along C5 Road on June 12. I stepped on the brake when I reached the intersection, and I noticed that the traffic light was red. While waiting for the traffic light to turn green, a speeding motorcycle coming from the opposite direction suddenly hit my car.

A police investigation was conducted. The motorcycle rider suffered broken ribs because of the incident. It was also found out that he was positive for alcohol intake. But to my dismay, I was charged for reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries. I am aggrieved because I know I was not negligent. The motorcycle rider was at fault, yet I am the one being charged for an offense. Please help me.
Inciong

Dear Inciong,
A person may be held criminally liable if he is committing a felony although the wrongful act done was different from that intended; and if he is performing an act which would be an offense against persons or property, were it not for the inherent impossibility of its accomplishment or on account of the employment of inadequate or ineffectual means (Article 4, Revised Penal Code of the Philippines).

Reckless imprudence consists in voluntarily, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by an inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place (Article 365, Ibid.).


In the situation you presented, you were not reckless because you observed traffic rules and regulations when the incident happened. You stopped your car at the intersection and waited for the traffic light to turn green; thus, you observed the diligence required under the circumstance. The motorcycle rider should be made liable for his injuries, because his negligence was the proximate cause of the damage that he suffered (broken ribs).

The Supreme Court elucidates on the meaning of the proximate cause:

“Proximate cause is defined as that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred. And more comprehensively, the proximate legal cause is that acting first and producing the injury, either immediately or by setting other events in motion, all constituting a natural and continuous chain of events, each having a close causal connection with its immediate predecessor, the final event in the chain immediately effecting the injury as a natural and probable result of the cause which first acted, under such circumstances that the person responsible for the first event should, as an ordinary prudent and intelligent person, have reasonable ground to expect at the moment of his act or default that an injury to some person might probably result therefrom”(Dumayag vs People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 172778, November 26, 2012).

In view of the foregoing, you may not be held criminally liable for the injury sustained by the motorcycle rider.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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4 Comments

  1. So, taking the logic of the above, if we then we are driving through a green light and a pedestrian so recklessly darts across even before it’s the pedestrians’ green light (as so often happens in Manila, with its self-entitled pedestrians), and we happen to hit him/them, then we should not be held criminally liable for whatever injuries or death that occurs. Because the pedestrian wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. You were driving in the vehicle space, he was in the pedestrian space where he wasn’t supposed to be at that point in time.

  2. does “Last Clear Chance” doctrine of ong vs metropolitan water district, applicable to this case? thank you!

  3. Well one thing he said which the pao should have noticed was he said & i quote ” I stepped on the brake when I reached the intersection, and I noticed that the traffic light was red “. If you had stopped at the intersection, then looked at the traffic light & it was green & someone would have hit you that could be your fault. In the uk we have a book called ” the highway code “. Its every drivers duty to know & understand this. Now when driving & you are coming to an intersection controlled by a traffic light system you first look at that light as you are approaching it, & you drive accordingly. That means you dont drive to the intersection & stop & then look at the light, that is stupid. But it seems most drivers in the Phillipines do not know how to drive, they should have a very comprehensive driving test as in the uk or other country.

    • Or maybe his narration is just incorrect. Imo, he is just emphasizing that he stopped because it was red light it’s just the way he narrated it that seems confusing. I’m not sure, I myself is not perfect in English “unlike people like you in the UK”.