What Does it all Mean?
Determining who is at fault in a traffic accident is a matter of investigating and determining who was negligent and caused the accident. In many cases, your instincts will tell you that a driver, cyclist or pedestrian acted carelessly. Determining fault issues can be complicated, and an experienced attorney will look to a number of sources, such as police reports, state traffic laws, and witnesses, to help you determine who was at fault for your accident. Courts look to a number of factors in determining whether a driver was negligent. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Disobeying traffic signs or signals;
- Failing to signal while turning;
- Driving above or below the posted speed limit;
- Disregarding weather or traffic conditions;
- Failing to drive on the right side of the road; and
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A driver may also be liable for an accident due to his or her reckless conduct. A driver who is reckless is one who drives unsafely, with "willful and wanton disregard" for the probability that such driving may cause an accident. A driver could be found reckless, for example, if he or she drives in a threatening or harassing manner out of "road rage" and causes an accident.. Road rage is defined as "an assault with a auto or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another auto or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway."
Statistics compiled in 1997 by NHTSA and the American Automobile Association showed that almost 13,000 people had been injured or killed since 1990 in crashes caused by aggressive driving. According to a NHTSA survey, more than 60 percent of drivers consider unsafe driving by others, including speeding, a major personal threat to themselves and their families. About 30 percent of respondents said they felt their safety was threatened in the last month, while 67 percent felt this threat during the last year.Traffic safety and law enforcement organizations are renewing efforts to identify and penalize aggressive drivers-those who speed, tailgate, zip from lane to lane, flash headlights in frustration, and engage in other dangerous driving practices. The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as a progression of unlawful driving actions such as:
- Speeding-exceeding the posted limit or driving too fast for conditions;
- Improper or excessive lane changing;
- Failing to signal intent;
- Failing to see that movement can be made safely; or
- Improper passing-failing to signal intent, using an emergency lane to pass, or passing on the shoulder.
In certain cases, accidents are caused by factors unrelated to the conduct of any particular driver. For example, an automobile accident may occur due to a defect in someone's automobile. In such a case, an automobile manufacturer or supplier may be responsible for injuries caused by a defect in the automobile under the law of product liability. A product liability suit is a lawsuit brought against the seller of a product for selling a defective product that caused physical injury to a consumer or user. If a manufacturer of a product creates a defective product-either in designing, manufacturing, or labeling the product-the manufacturer is liable for any injuries the product causes, regardless of whether the manufacturer was negligent.
Another example of a situation where a driver may not be at fault for an accident is where a mechanic fails to properly repair a vehicle, and the failure causes an accident. In such a case, the person who improperly repaired the automobile, and his employer, may be liable for the injuries sustained under the theory of negligence.
Other factors, such as poorly maintained roads and malfunctioning traffic control signals can contribute to cause an accident as well. Improper design, maintenance, construction, signage, lighting or other highway defects, including poorly placed trees and utility poles, can also cause serious accidents. In cases such as this, government entities may be potential defendants. Special rules apply to claims and lawsuits brought against governmental bodies, however, and good legal advice is critical to preserving and winning such claims.Conclusion
In all of the above cases, it is essential that accident victims take prompt measures to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and have physicians or other expert witnesses thoroughly evaluate any injuries. If you have been a victim of an automobile accident, do not hesitate to call upon personal injury attorneys who are skilled and experienced in auto accident cases to assess your situation and determine the best methods for you to obtain any compensation available for the damages you suffered.
If you have been injured in a car accident, please contact Carabin & Shaw today. We offer free initial consultations and work on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is never a fee unless we successfully resolve your case.For immediate assistance, call us toll-free at 800-862-1260.