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Theories of Liabilities

A. Negligence

Deciding whether a driver was negligent in a motor vehicle accident can be difficult. Sometimes you may feel that another driver, a cyclist, or a pedestrian didn't use a reasonable amount of care, but you may not know exactly which rule or rules applied to their conduct. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to help you determine if another person was negligent. The attorney will consider many sources, including state traffic laws, police reports and the statements of witnesses to the accident.

Courts consider many variables in making a determination that a driver or another person was negligent. These variables may include:

  • Failing to follow traffic signs and signals
  • Disobeying traffic laws
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Neglecting to signal a turn
  • Driving faster or slower than the posted speed limit
  • Ignoring traffic conditions
  • Driving too fast for weather conditions
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
B. Aggressive Drivers

A driver may also be held responsible for an accident if he or she acted recklessly or too aggressively. Reckless driving is driving so unsafely that they have acted in reckless disregard of the safety of others. For example, a driver may be found reckless if he or she threatens or harasses another person while driving out of “road rage” and causes an accident. Road rage is generally defined as an assault with a motor vehicle precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.” Criminal charges may also result against a reckless driver.

Between 1990 and 1997, almost 13,000 people were injured or killed in car accidents that were caused by aggressive driving, according to studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA). Another NHTSA study showed that dangerous driving by others, including speeding, is considered a threat by 60 percent of drivers. Approximately 67 percent of these drivers felt that their personal safety, or the safety of their families have been threatened within the last year of the study.

Aggressive drivers are those who speed, tailgate, move quickly from lane to lane, flash their headlights excessively and use other dangerous driving techniques. Police officers and traffic safety officers are increasing their enforcement activities to apprehend and punish these aggressive drivers. Aggressive driving is defined by NHTSA as “a progression of unlawful driving actions,” such as:

  • Speeding, which can be either going faster than the posted speed limit or driving too fast for current conditions
  • Improper passing by either failing to signal, using an emergency lane to pass, or passing on the shoulder of the road
  • Improper or excessive lane changing
  • Failing to signal a turn
  • Failure to yield to oncoming traffic

NHTSA offers the following tips on how to avoid an accident with aggressive drivers:

  • Get out of the way of an aggressive driver
  • Don't let your pride get the better of you; don't challenge the aggressive driver by speeding up or trying to hold your place in your travel lane
  • Avoid eye contact; sometimes looking at an aggressive driver can make them more aggressive
  • Avoid gestures; ignore any rude gestures made towards you and don't make any gestures yourself
  • Report seriously aggressive drivers to the police.
C. Third Parties
1. Intoxicated Drivers

In a typical year, over one million people are injured in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents and someone in the United States dies from an alcohol-related accident every 30 minutes. In a drunk driving accident, the drunk driver will be held responsible for the injuries and damages that he or she negligently caused. Additionally, in many states, a bar or a person who hosted a social event or party may also be responsible for these damages if they served alcohol to a patron or guest who was obviously intoxicated and that obviously intoxicated patron caused injuries to others. There are a variety of specific state laws covering liability in the collision caused by an intoxicated driver and an experienced personal injury lawyer will use these laws to take into account everyone who may be held liable for your injuries.

2. Product Manufacturers

Sometimes motor vehicle accidents are caused by a defect or malfunction in an automobile. If this type of accident occurs, the manufacturer or the supplier of the automobile or automobile part may be held responsible under the law of products liability. Products liability law governs lawsuits brought by consumers against sellers of a product for selling a defective and unreasonably dangerous product, which caused an injury to the user of the product. Manufacturers that create a defective product, either in the design, manufacturing or labeling stages, can be held responsible for the injuries caused by the defective and unreasonably dangerous product.

3. Automotive Technicians

Another situation in which the drivers in a motor vehicle accident may not be held responsible for the accident is where an automotive technician failed to correctly repair one of the vehicles and the improper repair caused the accident. If an incorrect repair job caused an accident, the auto mechanic may be found negligent. If the auto mechanic is negligent, the mechanic and his or her employer may be held responsible for the injuries and property damage that the accident caused.

4. Government Entities

Motor vehicle collisions may also be caused by activities of a governmental entity. These situations can include poorly designed or maintained roads, broken traffic signals, road construction collisions, or obstructions that make it difficult to see the road properly, such as signs, bad lighting, trees or utility poles. If one of these factors contributed to the cause of an accident, the governmental body that was responsible for the condition may be held responsible for any damages. However, there are special rules involved in suing a governmental agency along with immunity issues above a certain amount of damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be aware of these rules and will be able to fully analyze the facts of a specific claim.

D. Conclusion

It is crucial to the eventual success of your lawsuit that you take steps to secure all evidence, have a thorough investigation of the facts of your collision and obtain the professional opinion of doctors or other health care professionals about any injuries or damages that you have suffered. If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to assist you with all aspects of your claim.

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