Car Accident Negligence

The term “car accident negligence” is a specific legal term used to describe who may be at fault in a car accident or collision. It’s a term that is often Googled since there are different forms of negligence and how it may affect your insurance claim.

The truth is that negligence is a tricky subject, and we will help you to understand how it applies to laws and courts within this article.

If you have been caught in a car accident that was not your fault, our sympathy is with you. The shock and frustration that come with suffering injury or damages from someone else’s carelessness may feel overwhelming.

A list of subtopics and summary about this article are provided below, however most people will consult an attorney to determine if negligence may be a factor in their case.

What is Car Accident Negligence?

  1. The key to determining negligence is defining what a reasonable person may have done to prevent a crash.
  2. Each state defines how negligence is determined and, in some cases, the courts may divide the responsibility of an accident into percentages.
  3. Connecticut employs a “modified comparative negligence” law.

What is Considered Reasonable Care?

  1. Reasonable care will be defined in different ways depending on the circumstance. Examples are provided in this article.

Proving Negligence in a Car Accident

  1. There are four elements for proving negligence, which include:
    • Duty
    • Breach
    • Causation
    • Damages
  2. Since Connecticut is a comparative negligence state, a percentage of damages may be awarded in the court of law.

We hope you find this article helpful. We understand that when you go to great lengths to follow traffic laws and be a responsible driver, you naturally assume that others on the road are doing the same. However, it only takes one individual’s irresponsibility to render your caution useless. If you would like to learn more about what you can do to protect your claim, call the attorneys at The Flood Law Firm today. 

Negligence:

A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.  The behavior usually consists of actions, but can also consist of omissions when there is some duty to act (e.g., a duty to help victims of one’s previous conduct).

-Wex Legal Dictionary

What is Car Accident Negligence?

Negligence is a legal term that is common to personal injury or wrongful death cases. At its most basic level, negligence involves the following:

  • two or more parties involved in an accident
  • at least one of the parties failed to take reasonable action(s) to prevent the car crash from occurring.
  • at least one of the parties failed to take reasonable care to prevent the accident

Defining what a reasonable person may have done to prevent an accident is key to determining negligence. The theory of negligence is that even though a person may have unintentionally caused a collision, the person’s carelessness may have caused injury to someone else’s health or property.

4 Common Examples of Negligent Driving

  • Failing to obey traffic laws
  • Failing to pay attention behind the wheel
  • Failing to maintain control of the car
  • Failing to use the car’s features properly

In the following two scenarios, each driver may be guilty of negligence.

  • A driver’s failure to fix a broken brake light may have been a factor in an auto accident. Even though the driver (who had the broken taillight) was dutifully obeying all other traffic laws while driving, his/her neglect of this safety feature puts other drivers in jeopardy. Driving with a broken taillight may have lead to a rear-end collision.
  • A driver makes an active choice to put others at risk with their driving. Someone speeding or racing to beat a yellow light could cause a collision. This may be characterized as either negligent and/or reckless behavior. Each state has specific legal term and phrase requirements to classify this type of action.

Negligence is the cause of a traffic collision in 90% of the cases we handle. A driver is speeding, texting, using their iPhone, or worse they are under the influence, and those of us who are obeying the laws often are hurt, and we are the victims. That is where our legal team comes in, and we aggressively represent our clients to the fullest extent of the law. – Chris Flood, Partner

Negligence is not entirely clear-cut as it is. Multiple drivers involved in one accident may each have acted with a certain amount of negligence. In these cases, the court will examine comparative or contributory negligence on the part of each driver and determine who was most at fault. The state of Connecticut no longer uses contributory negligence. Instead, Connecticut employs a modified comparative negligence law. The two types of negligence are discussed below:

  • Comparative negligence means that both drivers were somewhat at fault in the car accident. In this determination, each party is held responsible for a portion of the financial damages in the car accident.
    • Comparative negligence is treated differently by different states. In some states, if a driver is ruled to be over 50 percent at fault in the accident, they are not permitted to collect any compensation.
  • Contributory negligence means that the part a driver played in the car accident, even if it was minimal, was such that it prohibits him or her from recovering any financial damages.
    • This is a much less common ruling, especially since many states have abolished contributory negligence.

As indicated above, Connecticut employs a modified comparative negligence law. This means that a plaintiff in a car accident lawsuit is entitled to financial compensation only if he or she is found less than 51% at fault in the accident. If a plaintiff played a big part in the car accident, his/her financial damages are decreased proportionately.

4 Common Examples of Plaintiff Negligence

  • Speeding while driving another car involved in the accident
  • Riding with a driver that plaintiff knows is drunk, reckless, or sleepy
  • Riding in a car that plaintiff knows is defective for example, riding in a car that is without lights or has a flat tire)
  • Interfering with the driver’s operation of the car

Road rage provides a perfect example of when comparative or contributory negligence comes into play. Many traffic courts have encountered a case where a driver was annoyed by a tailgater and decided to slam on their brakes, resulting in a rear-end collision.

In Connecticut, even though the tailgater may be considered the instigator of the problem, the driver who hit their brakes may be considered partially at fault. It would be up to the court to determine if there was comparative negligence and to also determine the percentage of liability (or fault) applied to each person in the car accident.

What is Considered Reasonable Care

Reasonable care while driving a car means the driver acts cautiously, not recklessly nor breaking the law, as with speeding. To drive with reasonable care in the case where a heavy downpour of rain affects driving conditions, a driver is expected to reduce his/her driving speed substantially below the speed limit.

Other examples of failure to exercise reasonable care include the following:

  • Failure to maintain proper functionality of a vehicle. If a person’s car is not functioning properly, it can pose a threat to other drivers’ safety. Broken taillights, headlights and worn windshield wipers making vision difficult are perfect examples.
  • Driving with a compromised state of mind. If someone gets behind the wheel after a heated argument, he/she may drive aggressively and endanger bystanders. Another example of negligence can be driving while tired.
  • Failure to comply with traffic laws. Speeding, swerving, or racing for yellow stoplights are other common examples.

There are circumstances where failing to exercise reasonable care involves a driver technically following the law. If a driver follows the speed limit of 55 miles per hour but the visibility is poor due to fog or the road is iced over, reasonable care would constitute driving at a reduced speed.

Weather in Connecticut often influences driving conditions and at times, going the speed limit could be considered reckless. A driver is likely to be found guilty of negligence in an inclement weather situation if he/she may cause a car crash.

Less commonly, another instance where a driver is expected to exercise reasonable care concerns the driver’s medical history. If a driver has a medical history that suggests it may be unsafe for them to drive, or fails to take a prescription or other medical precautions needed before getting behind the wheel, they may also be found guilty of negligence.

Proving Negligence in a Car Accident

When you sue for negligence in a car accident case, there are four elements that most often must be proved for you to receive compensation:

  1. Duty: The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff under the circumstances. Examples: driving within the speed limit, watching the road, avoiding distractions, and maintaining vehicle safety and functionality.
  1. Breach: The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way. Examples: not reducing speed in poor road conditions, failing to do a necessary vehicle repair, texting while driving.
  1. Causation: It was the defendant’s actions (or inaction) that actually caused the plaintiff’s injury. Examples: By not fixing a broken rearview mirror, the driver made a lane change that caused an accident; by not slowing down on an icy road, the driver swerved and collided with another vehicle.
  1. Damages: The plaintiff was harmed or injured as a result of the defendant’s actions. Examples: suffering whiplash from a rear-end collision.

In addition to proving your case, the amount of compensation awarded in a negligence car accident depends largely on proving that liability, or fault, lies with the other driver.  In Connecticut, if a plaintiff played a part in the car wreck, his/her financial damages is decreased proportionately.

When you are the victim, you are trying to get your life back to normal. Make sure you protect your rights to a fair compensation for recovery. Review our checklist on what to do if you’ve been in a car or truck accident.

Your life should not have to go “on hold” because of someone else’s irresponsible driving. If you have suffered injury from a car accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation to cover your medical bills, vehicle repairs and the wages you have lost while taking time off work to recover.

Let our experienced car accident attorneys fight for your right to justice. Call the office of The Flood Law Firm for a free, no-obligation consultation about your legal options.

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