There is a lot of talk about negligence in personal injury law. Personal injury lawyers use the word often. Negligence, in legal terms, is when someone fails to perform a necessary action, causing injury to another person.
Negligence is not the same thing as an intentional, harmful act. It is not a direct action; rather, it is inaction. The difference is subtle, but important. In a car accident, we often consider what the other driver did. We say things like, “They decided to drive when they were too tired.” This is a true statement, but in legal terms, we would sue that driver for what they didn’t do. In this example, the driver wasn’t alert at the wheel. They failed to be responsible on the road.
Here are some common ways in which a driver can be negligent on the road.
DRIVING WHILE DISTRACTED
This form of negligence is responsible for many car accidents. You may normally be an incredibly safe driver, but you’ve probably had at least one moment where you almost hit something, realizing that you weren’t paying attention. Distracted driving includes using a cellphone on the road, eating while driving, taking your eyes off the road, operating a radio or dashboard console, etc. Drivers have an obligation to remain alert when they drive. When they are distracted by anything else, they are being negligent.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS OR ALCOHOL
Sobriety is one of the simplest, most essential aspects of operating any dangerous machine. Far too many people take their driving skills for granted and risk operating a car while drunk or buzzed. This practice is not only dangerous, it is also illegal. Drunk driving rides the line between a negligence claim and a tort. A tort is an act where you willfully attempt to harm someone else. Depending on the severity of the accident and the person’s level of drunkenness, they could be sued for a tort, not negligence.
DRIVING WHILE FATIGUED
Studies show that fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Fatigued people often assume that they are more functional than they actually are. Driving is such a normal part of our everyday lives that we often don’t take it seriously. You would not operate dangerous construction equipment while you were exhausted, and you should think of your car the same way. A tired driver is negligent by not being aware and alert while driving.
VIOLATING TRAFFIC LAWS
This is another situation that is not only dangerous, but also illegal. Speeding can make you unable to react to sudden hazards or slowdowns. Running stop lights or stop signs can lead to hitting someone who was appropriately observing traffic laws. This can also happen when someone doesn’t wait their turn, as in a four-way stop. Traffic violations are negligent because the driver is responsible for following the rules.
When a personal injury lawsuit is the result of someone violating traffic law, it could be a case of strict liability. This means that the plaintiff needs only prove that the violation happened. Like drunk driving, egregious violations could lead to a tort lawsuit.
There are many laws against aggressive driving, but there are ways to skirt around these laws. Technically, you could drive aggressively and still be within the boundaries of the law. This would not, however, protect you from a lawsuit. Aggressive driving includes quick lane changes or darting across multiple lanes. Cutting people off or quickly squeezing into a small space between cars is aggressive. You sometimes see motorcycle riders driving between lanes, down the dotted line. There are many examples of aggressive driving, and they all represent a form of negligence. Drivers have an obligation to drive safely and courteously.
ALLOWING A CAR TO FALL INTO DISREPAIR
When we imagine driver negligence, we don’t often imagine car maintenance. Drivers own or lease their cars, making them the driver’s responsibility. Drivers are obligated to keep their vehicles in safe, working order. Failure to do so is a form of negligence. Bringing a broken car onto the road endangers everyone.
Cars do not need to be dilapidated for this standard of negligence to apply. An otherwise functioning car is still dangerous if the brakes are going bad. When owners fail to maintain their vehicles, they are opening themselves up to liability lawsuits.
COMPENSATION FOR DRIVER NEGLIGENCE
If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, you can sue them for damages. Damages are a form of financial compensation awarded by the court. They can be paid to cover medical expenses incurred from your recovery. You can receive damages for lost income or lost potential income that resulted from your injury. It is even possible to be compensated for the pain and suffering you endured after the accident.
If you’ve been hurt by a negligent driver, ask us about the damages you might be able to receive. You can schedule a free consultation at 918-492-7674 or online.