Fault and Liability for Motor Vehicle Accidents

There are many factors to determine who is responsible for damages or injuries sustained from an automobile accident. For example, a motorist is severely injured when another motorist cuts in front of him/her after turning to the street. He may be held responsible if he/she was over speeding or did some unlawful change of lane before the crash. Thus, the decision of who will pay for the damages or injuries in car accidents will depend on motor vehicle statutes instead of the conventional and common law meaning of “fault.”

The automobile insurance industry is influenced by the state legislatures to base car accident liability more on motor vehicle statutes rather than the common law concepts of fault. This idea has made the insurance providers to dare fault and liability when the other party in the accident defied a traffic law, particularly when liability insurance is needed in all the states. For instance, a motorist who is lacking with liability insurance may not be allowed to collect for damages even if the other motorist is partly negligent for the traffic incident.

Common Law

Fault” for being the reason of an accident can be created by the law or determined by common law. Common law acknowledges 4 basic degrees of fault, such as:

  1. Negligence
  2. Recklessness or wanton conduct
  3. Intentional misconduct
  4. Strict liability, regardless of fault

Basically, negligence refers to reckless or unintentional behavior that causes harm and/or damage which is common in automobile accidents. A person may be negligent by not being able to do something like unyielding to the right of way to prevent an accident, and by doing something like running a red light.

Reckless or wanton conduct is the deliberate disregard for the safety and welfare of other people. Strict liability can be given, although with the absence of fault, for the accidents that involve some defective products or more dangerous activities like transporting of explosive chemicals.

Under the common law, the person who has caused a car accident committed a “tort,” that which is a personal wrong done against the other person, but not reaching to the degree of an intentional tort or crime. The person who commits torts is called “tortfeasors” under the law. There are many vehicle insurance policies that apply the term “tortfeasors” for persons who are partly at fault for an accident.

It is an uncommon question of fault when the motorist is engaged in intentional or careless misconduct like drunk driving. However, when it comes to general negligence, like the fender-benders or other routine accidents, to determine who is at fault is more complicated. This is may be because there are more than one motorist that may be found to at least partly liable. When this happens and when there are more tortfeasors are involved, the state law orders that must pay for the damage to property and damages to the involved injured parties.

Motor Vehicle Statutory Violations

Each state has established multiple laws to regulate the way where the drivers must operate their vehicles on the public roads. Many statutes are codified versions of the common law and other laws are outcomes of legislative initiatives. The vital point to remember is that the violation of any of these statutes will create a presumption of negligence according to law. For example, most of the states require all motorists to wear helmets, and failure to do this is an act of negligence, and may affect liability in an accident.

Hence, the fault in the accident may be determined by mentioning a statute that was defied. A motorist who assumed to cause the accident by virtue of a statutory violation carries the burden of showing that this act of negligence was not the immediate reason or cause of the injuries. For instance, the motorcyclist who was not able to wear a helmet experiences a severe brain injury after a motorist who is driving a car accidentally sideswipes him/her. The motorist may be negligent, and so is the motorcyclist who fails to wear the helmet.

The easiest way to use the notion of proximate cause to a vehicle accident is to if it is true that, “but for” the violation, the accident would not have taken place. As to the motorcyclist example, the helmet might not have avoided the accident, but it would have restricted the motorcyclist’s injuries. Thus, the motorist may not be held accountable for the motorcyclist’s brain injury.

If you have more questions about fault and liability for motor vehicle accidents, then, you may consult with an experienced car accident attorney in your area.

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