There are nearly 6 million police-reported car accidents each year in the US. Of those accidents, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 2,362,000 million people were injured. Determining fault when an injury occurs is necessary to cover damages to the person and the property adequately.
A Driver’s Obligation
Given the sheer number of vehicles on the road and the danger we all face barreling down a freeway at 65 to 75 miles per hour in a metal tube with wheels, being able to trust that the other drivers on the highway are driving responsibly is imperative to keeping the roads safe and usable.
In fact, drivers have a legal obligation to “exercise reasonable care under the circumstances.” If a driver is found to have failed in this area, then he or she may be considered negligent, making them legally liable to cover any damages, including to the property and any person involved.
Determining Fault in a Motor Vehicle Accident
Fault is typically placed with the person who was found negligent. When there’s a legal claim that arises due to a vehicular accident, the courts first look to determine who is careless and to what degree.
The following actions could be considered negligent by the courts:
- Failure to obey traffic signs and signals
- Not signaling when turning
- Driving above or below the posted speed limit
- A disregard of weather or traffic conditions
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
If you’re in an accident, you might instinctively know it wasn’t your fault without necessarily being aware of what the other person did wrong. The police report, eyewitnesses and state traffic laws will help make an objective determination of who was at fault.
The driver might not have even caused the incident. It’s also possible, and worth looking into, that a cyclist or pedestrian was careless and violated a rule or law. Having eye witnesses at the scene to report what happened helps prove innocence and fault.
In some cases, the fault might not be determined by negligence, but a more conscious action. The courts may decide that a driver breached the standard of care, meaning they knowingly acted in a way that is “unreasonable” for responsible road safety. These actions could include:
- Reckless and aggressive driving
- Drunk driving
Comparative Fault And Motor Vehicle Accidents
Arizona is a comparative fault state, meaning that fault is distributed among the parties. This means that if you are involved in an accident that wasn’t completely your fault, the courts could rule that you were 20% at fault. As a result, you would only recover 80% of the damages instead of the full 100%.
For example, say Janice is leaving for work one morning, and she turns out of her driveway without looking carefully for oncoming traffic. Carol is speeding down Janice’s street and hits her. Though Janice is primarily responsible for entering traffic in an unsafe manner, Carol is also partially to blame because she was speeding. A determination will then be made about each person’s percentage of fault.
Because of the fault distribution, these cases can be more complicated than a cut and dried, black-and-white fault determination. Having legal representation to argue on your behalf can be helpful.
In Arizona, liability insurance is required by law. At a minimum, you must carry coverage that will compensate the other party for damages if you are at fault. Even though having car insurance is legally mandated, it’s also wise to have uninsured motorist insurance in case an uninsured driver is responsible for the accident and causes personal or property damage to you or your vehicle.
Determining Fault in Auto Accidents Not Caused by the Drivers Involved
Though an accident may involve a party that is clearly at fault, there could be another less obvious issue that caused the accident. A defective part in a vehicle or an obstructed traffic sign are two examples of circumstances that could lead to a crash where no driver is to blame.
Product Liability – A vehicle may have a defect that makes driving it unsafe. If the product is defective in design, manufacturing or labeling, then the manufacturer could be held legally responsible in the case of an accident. Car manufacturers have a duty to inform customers of any defects they’ve discovered and make arrangements to notify and replace defective parts. Failure to do so could result in the manufacturer being found negligent, and therefore, liable.
Government Liability – The government has a duty to its citizens to properly maintain our nation’s infrastructure to keep it safe and operational.
Examples of when the government could be held liable include:
- Poorly maintained roads
- Malfunctioning traffic signals
- Highway defects, such as improper or unsafe design, construction, obstructed or missing signage, insufficient lighting, poorly placed utility poles or trees
Car accident cases can become significantly more complex when the defendant is a government body, so obtaining skillful legal representation is vital.
Learn More About Your Car Accident Claim: Get Your Accident Claim Reviewed Today!
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident injury, some important questions need to be answered. Give us a call to get your claim reviewed with an attorney who can help you identify who, if anyone, was negligent and if that negligence caused your injury.
We work on a contingency basis, so you won’t pay fees unless we recover for you.
Contact us today to learn more.
Folger Law Firm
11811 N Tatum Blvd #3031, Phoenix, AZ 85028