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As always, we’re visiting with Peter Riley, of the Tom Riley Law Firm, who’s here to answer your legal questions.
The first question is, “With slick road conditions, a car two cars behind me had slid into the car directly behind me, and then hit that car. And that car hit me, I assume the car two cars behind is at fault. Is there any leniency given by the court due to the nature of this accident?”
Peter says, that the the system that we have for allowing claims when there is an injury is a fault-based system. He said possible negligence, or fault, always needs to be considered. Peter says that there is a rule that basically says, ‘You have to be able to stop your vehicle within the assured safe stopping distance.’ That takes into account the circumstances including the weather, so if you’re driving on a slick road, you have to prepare for the fact that it may take you longer to stop. And so if you hit a car, you violated that rule. Basically, if you violate the rule, the law doesn’t really make any exception. Peter said a jury court case could have a different outcome. Peter explains more in the video above.
A viewer named Stanley says, “In Iowa City, our roads are filled with non-licensed four-wheel-drive service vehicles owned by the University of Iowa. These vehicles are not registered for street use, they pay no taxes, and generally they slow down traffic behind them due to their inability to reach street legal speeds in a timely manner. Why is this legal for them to do? While the rest of us pay extremely high fees to register and drive cars and trucks? Is there anything preventing me from doing the same?”
Peter said the Iowa vehicle codes are extensive. First of all, as a general principle, a government-owned vehicle is exempt from registration. Iowa has always had an exemption for farm vehicles, they don’t have to be registered. There’s a special statute that governs golf carts and allows cities to license them. Counties can license ATVs for the highway and a number of them have. He said specific city statutes could help with this, but those would have to be put into place by city councils or commissions. Peter did say that the city will likely cut the university some slack. He said there might not be much to do about that.
Kathy asks, “Is there a state law in place prohibiting cell phone use in Iowa?”
Peter said he doesn’t believe anything has been passed to limit cell phone use. He said he might have missed it, but that’s not likely.
In referencing the vehicle question earlier, someone asked “Why do state vehicles have license plates if they are excluded?”
Peter thinks that they are needed for identification, basically. But the general provision is they don’t have to go through the registration process. But, there are some exceptions listed in the extensive vehicle codes.
And now an anonymous question from Cedar Rapids, which is, “In spite of city laws, my neighbor has routinely parked her car in her yard, driving over the curb to do so. Recently, the water pipe burst on her property, exactly where she drives over the curb and yard to park illegally. It caused a huge mess with photos and water all over the street and yards including mine. We had no water service for two days until repairs could be made. Should I report her to the city water department? Should I consider a civil suit for damages incurred?”
Peter said he would I would pass that along to the city. He said it’s definitely inconvenient, but not economically justifiable for a civil suit. Bottom line, Peter says, is to call the city, maybe they can be of help. Peter just doesn’t see that there’s enough involved, that you could economically pursue a lawsuit.
We’ve got another question from an anonymous viewer in Marion, who said “Recently, my adult son who does not live with us, backed out of our driveway and struck an illegally parked car across the street causing minor damage. When our neighbor confronted me and implied that I did it. I was unaware of the incident. But when I checked our doorbell camera, it clearly showed what happened. Am I obligated by law to share that video footage with our very obnoxious neighbor?”
Unless a lawsuit is filed, you don’t have any obligation to provide that to the neighbor, Peter said. If law enforcement were investigating it, you might have some obligation to provide information. But, he said that he recommends saving the footage, just in case.
A viewer, in response to the earlier question, said that the City of Marion will fine you if your vehicle or boat is not parked on a cement platform.
The City of Marion says that, for sure, Peter said. He spoke about a case that is going through courts, regarding a woman parking in her backyard and the city saying that isn’t allowed. “And by the way, it’s not uncommon that most larger cities will have a requirement that you have to park on a paved surface,” Peter said.
Steve asked, “Could you explain ‘strict scrutiny’ and why it’s applied when reducing and/or removing time, place and manner in first amendment rights?”
Peter said strict scrutiny refers to the degree of analysis that a court takes in trying to justify governmental action. “So for instance, if a law is passed, that doesn’t involve a fundamental right, like religion or speech or assembly, it will normally be upheld, if there is a reasonable or rational explanation for what the law is and why it does, what it does, and whether it is in the best interest [of everyone],” Peter said. But, if you have governmental action that impacts a fundamental right, like speech or religion, then it is usually subject to a strict scrutiny analysis. Peter gives another example in the video above.
Steve then asked a follow-up question, “Is strict scrutiny applied in custody of a child, if you are reducing time, place and manner?”
No, that’s not a fundamental right, Peter said. He said that will all be determined in family courts, for what is in the best interest of the child/children.
The last question, asked anonymously was, “I work as a receptionist for a local manufacturer. Recently, I was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in one ear, which is the one I used to answer the phone. My doctor and I agree that over 20 years of constantly being on the phone at work has contributed to my deafness. When I approached management with the news and asked for a different job, they refused my future at the only place of employment I’ve known since high school. It seems bleak. What are my legal options?”
Peter advised speaking to a lawyer who handles matters in the Workers Compensation area. He said Workers Compensation basically provides benefits to employees for work-related injury and occasionally, work-related illness, if they can establish that it was related to the work. Peter said that if you have a gradual hearing loss, there’s actually a specific statute for that in the Workers Compensation rules. Peter said this is very facts specific, so a lawyer consultation would be the best course of action.