Car Accidents: How is Negligence Defined?

With its vast highway and road system, California ranks as one of the leading states for auto accidents and fatalities. Negligent behavior by vehicle drivers, equipment manufacturers, or other entities often is the cause of many vehicle accidents. A large percentage of these accidents ultimately result in the filing of personal injury lawsuits. To win their case, the plaintiff must prove that negligent behavior by the defendant caused the accident that resulted in their injuries. Negligence is a key element that an experienced personal injury attorney will need to prove in order to win those car accident cases.

Car Accidents Due to Negligence

It’s no surprise that with almost 350,000 users on the busiest California highways each day, that there is also a high number of car accidents due to negligence. People on the move today also tend to be prone to distractions, which can occur in a number of ways during their time behind the wheel. When those distractions lead to accidents, that problem involves negligent behavior.

Distractions come in many forms, including listening to and adjusting your sound equipment, talking on a cell phone, texting, using a computer or GPS unit, conversing with other passengers, being overtired and sleepy, thinking about personal problems and many other mental activities. If you are not paying full attention to driving, you may miss signs of potential road hazards, slowdowns by traffic ahead of you, other people who break traffic laws by making sudden or illegal turns, and other problems that occur while you are driving.

When you are driving a vehicle, your attention needs to be focused on the road ahead and your driving ability. In addition to that, you are expected to know and follow all traffic laws. There are many mind functions that are necessary for safe driving; any lapse in your attention can have a drastic consequence. People every day in California and across the nation are injured and killed in accidents that were due to negligent behavior by another driver.

Besides negligent behavior on the part of drivers, people may be injured in vehicle accidents that are caused because of unmarked road hazards or equipment defects/failures. In those cases, the negligent behavior may be attributed to one or more sources, like equipment manufacturers or designers. Your attorney will examine all aspects of your injury accident to determine who should be accused of a claim of negligent behavior.

What is Negligent Behavior?

The concept of negligent behavior derives from the idea that people have a duty to act according to a reasonable measure of care that should avoid accidental injuries to other people or damage to property.

Negligence is usually attributed to actions, but it also can consist of omissions in some circumstances.

  • Duty of Care – Drivers are expected to exercise a reasonable amount of care to avoid injury to others. They are expected to foresee potential problems and act accordingly to avoid collisions. This does require devotion of attention to driving skills, and not to other activities like texting. They also are expected to be aware of the potential harm their lack of attention (negligent behavior) may cause, and act with precaution to avoid the risk of harm.
  • Breach of Duty – This occurs when the driver fails to pay full attention to their driving skills, the traffic laws, the road conditions, weather, and all other factors that could result in a breach of duty to take reasonable care when they are driving. This also may include lack of actions, or omission, to take preventative care to avoid potential accidents.

How Does Negligence Affect Your Settlement/Award?

In many states, negligence will affect your settlement or award. In California, if the plaintiff shares a portion of responsibility or negligent behavior in an accidental injury case, the monetary compensation may be reduced by that portion of responsibility. Other states have stricter contributory negligence laws that could result in the plaintiff receiving no award.

  • Comparative Negligence – when each person shares part of the responsibility of an accident due to negligent behavior. Drivers are schooled to drive defensively, to be prepared to take evasive action and to beware of situations that could result in an accident. Failure to take this reasonable measure of care when driving could be attributed to the plaintiff as well as the defendant. For example, if the plaintiff notices a driver ahead weaving across lanes but then decides to pass that driver and the result is an accident, they may be assigned partial responsibility for the accident and subsequent injuries they incurred.
  • Contributory Negligence – this is a stricter interpretation of responsibility. If the injured person shared any part of the responsibility for the injury accident, they contributed to the situation and may wind up with no compensation. This could occur when they also were texting and get involved with another distracted texting driver and injuries occur.

Being able to drive safely requires full attention, knowledge of traffic laws and road/weather conditions and a number of other thought processes. When attention is distracted by anything else, there is an increase chance of being involved in an accident.

What Proof is Required?

Proving negligence is a key element of winning your personal injury case. Today, some people have their vehicles equipped with small cameras that record their driving and any accident that they are involved in. The accident report can be used as evidence, as can any CCTV footage that might be available from the road commission or nearby businesses. Eye witness testimony and that of the plaintiff will be presented. Your attorney will make a complete examination of the accident scene and the vehicles involved. Any photographs taken at the scene are also good to use as proof.

The objective of proof is to demonstrate that the defendant was negligent and failed to meet the required expectation of reasonable care and their duty to provide that level of care. It is essential to report your accident immediately, file a police report, get medical attention when needed, and then work closely with your San Diego car accident attorney to file your case in a timely manner, within any statutes of limitations.