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Fault and liability for car accidents

There are many factors that can affect who is responsible for injuries or damages resulting from an auto accident. A motorist may be seriously injured if another motorist cuts in front her when she turns onto the street. She may still be liable if she speeds or makes an illegal lane change before the collision. Motor vehicle statutes are more important than common law. They will determine who is responsible for injuries or damages sustained in car accidents.

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This article will explain the meaning of fault in car accident with respect to motor vehicle codes and common law. It differs from other types claims.

Statutory Guidance on Car Accident Liability

Automobile insurance lobbyists lobbied state legislatures for car accident liability to be based more on motor vehicle statutes rather than common law notions about fault. Insurers can now challenge fault and liability if the other party to an accident violates a traffic law. This is especially important since liability insurance in every state is required.

A motorist without liability insurance might not be able collect damages, even if they were partially responsible for an accident.

Common Law and Car Accident Liability

In its purest form, “fault for causing an accident” can be either created by law or defined in common law. Common law recognizes four levels of basic fault.

  • Negligence
  • Willful or reckless conduct
  • Intentional misconduct
  • Strict liability, regardless of fault

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Negligence is generally defined as careless or accidental conduct that causes harm or damage. This is very common in auto accidents. Negligence can also be caused by not giving the right-of way to avoid an accident.

Willful or reckless conduct is a willful disregard for others’ safety and well-being. Accidents involving defective products and extra hazardous activities, such as transporting explosive chemicals, may result in strict liability.

Common law states that individuals who cause a car accident are guilty of a tort, a private wrong against another person (but not to the extent of an intentional tort or crime). The law refers to those who have committed torts as “tortfeasors”. Numerous automobile insurance policies use “tortfeasor” as a way to describe people who are at most partially responsible for an accident.

It’s rare that a motorist is liable for their actions, including drunk driving. It becomes harder to establish fault when there is general negligence. Multiple motorists may be held partially or fully responsible. If this is the case, and there are multiple tortfeasors involved, state law dictates who pays for property damage and injuries.

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Motor Vehicle Statutory Violations

Each state has its own laws that regulate how drivers can operate their vehicles on public roads. Some of these statutes are codified versions or legislative initiatives of common law.

It is important to keep in mind that violations of any of these statutes can lead to a presumption for negligence. Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets in most states. Failing to do so can be considered negligence and could result in a reduction in liability for an accident victim.

A statute may not be cited to establish fault in an accident. A motorist who is presumed to be at fault for an accident due to a violation of a statute must prove that the act of negligence did not cause the injuries.

A motorist accidentally sideswipes a motorcyclist, causing him serious brain injuries. While the motorist was negligent, so was the motorcyclist who did not wear a helmet.

It is simple to apply the concept proximate cause to an auto accident by asking if it would have been true that the violation would not have caused the accident. The helmet may not have prevented an accident, but it would have likely limited the injuries to the motorcyclist. The motorist is not liable for motorcyclist’s brain injuries.

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For questions about car accident fault and liability, get legal help

An attorney should review your case immediately if you believe that someone is at fault for an accident that you were involved in. To find out if you are eligible for damages, contact an experienced lawyer in car accidents today.

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