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Car Accidents and Negligence

If you have been in a car accident, then there’s a good chance you heard the term “negligence” at some point in the aftermath. Negligence is a theory that forms the basis of determining who is at fault for the accident and has a substantial impact on deciding the winning side of any subsequent lawsuit. If one driver is accused of being negligent, that means that the accident and any resulting injuries could have been caused because that person acted in a careless manner. In short, the driver could have caused the accident by doing something he shouldn’t have, like speeding, or failing to do something every driver should do, like turning headlights on at night. If negligence is proven, then that person is liable for any resulting damage or injuries from the car accident.

In a negligence claim, the plaintiff needs to show specific elements clarifying the defendant’s misconduct behind the wheel. Traffic law requires that any vehicle has a “duty of reasonable care,” stating that drivers need to be careful when encountering others on the road. This is an easy thing for the plaintiff to show because, by definition, a collision should not have occurred unless someone was being careless. The plaintiff must then show that the defendant broke this law of reasonable care by misconduct behind the wheel, such as speeding or running a red light, and that these actions resulted in the collision and any injuries it caused. Finally, the plaintiff must show that property damage, loss, or injuries were suffered due to the actions of the defendant, otherwise there could be no basis for reparations.

Drivers are expected to meet certain requirements while behind the wheel under “duty of reasonable care,” and adhering to these duties can help protect a driver from being accused of negligence. Drivers must maintain their vehicles and keep them in good care. If a malfunction causes an accident and that malfunction could have been easily avoided with routine maintenance, then this leaves the defendant open to liability. Drivers must maintain control of their car as well, along with adhering to instructions from road signs. Driving at a realistic speed is also imperative to uphold “duty of reasonable care” depending on road conditions and traffic. Even driving the speed limit can be considered unreasonable if the roads are very slippery, traffic is high, or visibility is very low.

Negligence claims are sometimes easily won by the plaintiff if there are serious infractions of traffic law. State laws require that anyone driving a vehicle have a valid license and car insurance, not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and follow traffic laws and conventions (like driving on the correct side of the street). However, certain circumstances may free a defendant from negligence depending on the situation. For example, a driver may not fully responsible for failing to yield to a pedestrian’s right-of-way if the pedestrian runs out into the middle of the road at a non-designated crossing.