The Basics of Driver Negligence

Negligence is a legal theory can help during many lawsuits for car accidents. When someone acts in a negligent manner, they have taken actions that are careless or thoughtless and caused injury or harm to another individual. Negligence can occur when someone does something they know is incorrect (such as speeding or running a red light) or if they fail to take actions that they should have (such as stopping for pedestrians, ensuring headlights are on at night, and forgetting to yield).

Drivers must be cautious to keep from hurting anyone on the road, which could mean passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians. This includes anyone on the street that the driver might come across. If the driver accidentally hurts someone because they were not being careful enough, the driver is responsible for the victim’s injuries and can be held liable.

Components of a Negligence Allegation

The individual who started the lawsuit (known as the plaintiff) needs to prove that the defendant (the individual who acted in a careless manner) acted with negligence. The plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the law states that the defendant needed to act with reasonable care, and (2) that the defendant did not act in a cautious manner. Since drivers are legally required to act with a duty of reasonable care“, the first aspect is not normally difficult to prove.

If it’s suspected that the duty of care was breached, the behavior of the driver will be compared with how a reasonable person would have acted in a similar situation. The law specifically looks into the way that a prudent, reasonable individual would have acted in a similar situation. The court might find that the defendant’s actions don’t align with actions that a reasonable person would have taken. In this case, the defendant has breached the duty of care.

Motorist Duties of Care

Drivers are legally required to practice reasonable care to keep from hurting others. If a collision occurred, in order to prove negligence, there are legal requirements that outline what to do after an accident.

The following examples outline additional driver duties that are enforced by law. If drivers cannot adhere to these reasonable requirements, it’s likely that they violated the duty of care.

Negligence can also occur if the weather causes especially low visibility where more caution is needed or the situation requires extra care (for instance, passing a school where it’s likely that kids are crossing the crosswalk).

Other instances of expected reasonable driving conduct are:

  • Traveling at a safe speed
  • Being cautious for pedestrians who have the right of way when crossing the street
  • Coming to a complete stop at a stop light
  • Allowing a safe distance between vehicles
  • Using and keeping the equipment in the car maintained (brakes and lights)
  • Ensuring the proper handling of the car

State Law Enforces Motorist Duties of Care

Every state has laws that direct driver behavior. In some situations, negligence can be presumed, which means that the defendant has to prove that they did not act in a careless fashion.

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