Car Accident Basics

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Reviewed by Hal Armstrong, Esq

The majority of personal injury cases in the United States stem from automobile accidents. This is not surprising considering that 5,615,000 cars were reported by police in crashes in 2012, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Motor Vehicle Accidents: The Law

Motor vehicle accidents can lead to legal claims. This is usually governed by the law on negligence. People who drive automobiles are required to exercise “reasonable care in all circumstances.” Neglecting to exercise reasonable care is considered negligence. Negligently operating a vehicle can result in a person being liable for damages to property or to persons. Plaintiff, the injured party, must prove that the defendant was negligent and that negligence was a proximate reason for the accident.

Motor vehicle accidents and negligence

Like other types of accidents it is not difficult to determine who is responsible for a traffic accident. Your instincts may tell you that the pedestrian, cyclist, or driver was negligent, but it is not clear what rules they violated. To determine who is at fault in your accident, an attorney will consult a variety of sources, including police reports, state traffic laws and witnesses.

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In determining whether a driver was negligent, courts look at a variety of factors. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Do not obey traffic signals or signs
  • Failure to signal when turning
  • You can drive faster than or slower than the posted speed limit
  • Weather and traffic conditions are irrelevant
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Other common causes of automobile accidents
  • Reckless Driving

Accidents may be caused by reckless or intentional driving. Unscrupulous driving is when a driver drives recklessly and has no regard for the possibility of causing an accident. Aggressive driving is defined by the NHTSA as a series of illegal driving actions, such as:

Speeding beyond the posted limit, or driving too fast in current conditions

Incorrect or excessive lane-changing, which includes failure to signal intent and failing to verify that the lane change is safe.

Incorrect passing includes failure to signal intent and the use of the median, shoulder or emergency lane to pass

Driving under the influence

Every 51 minutes, someone dies in an accident involving alcohol in the United States. Over one million people were hurt in traffic accidents involving alcohol last year. A lawsuit stemming from drunk driving accidents may also hold the driver responsible for any injuries. However, the bar or social host could be held liable for damages if they serve an intoxicated guest who causes an accident and then drives. However, the fact that an intoxicated driver may be held responsible for the alcohol served to him or her does not relieve the driver from liability. For more information on third-party liability in drunk driving accidents, see the Dram Shop Laws article.

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An attorney is familiar with the various laws that govern legal responsibility and can help you determine who could be responsible for your injuries. This includes people or businesses you may not have thought of.

Accidents that are not caused by the drivers involved

Accidents can be caused by circumstances that are not related to any driver’s conduct. An automobile defect could cause an accident. Under the law of product liability, the manufacturer or supplier of an automobile may be responsible for injuries resulting from a defect in it. A product liability lawsuit is a suit against a seller of a product, if the defective product caused injury to a user or consumer. The manufacturer of a product is responsible for any injuries caused by the product, regardless of negligence.

Accidents can also be caused by other factors such as poor road maintenance and malfunctioning traffic control signs. Serious accidents can also be caused by poor design, maintenance, construction and signage. Government entities could be named as potential defendants in such cases. However, there are special rules that govern claims against government bodies. Proper legal advice is crucial to preserve and win such claims.

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Talk to a lawyer for more information about your car accident claim

There are some questions you need to ask if you or someone close has been injured in a car accident. An attorney can review your case to determine if there was negligence and if it caused your injury. Contact an experienced attorney for car accidents near you today to get started.

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