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Fault and Liability for Car Accidents

In many cases, the at-fault party is determined through a legal proceeding called a lawsuit. If both parties agree to settle out of court, then the matter is resolved privately. Otherwise, each side hires a lawyer to represent them in court. In the United States, the plaintiff files a complaint against the defendant. The defendant then files a response to the complaint. Afterward, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is liable for any injuries caused by the accident. To do so, the plaintiff must show that the defendant was negligent. Negligence means failing to act reasonably under the circumstances. Defendants can defend themselves by showing that they acted reasonably. Once liability is established, the plaintiff can collect compensation for any injuries suffered.

In the United States, the decision of who pays for damage or injury in car accidents rests primarily upon state laws. These laws determine whether the driver at fault is liable for compensation or restitution. The fault is defined as the cause of an accident. If a driver is found to be at fault, then he or she will be held responsible for any resulting harm.

Statutory Guidance for Car Accident Liability

In the early 1900s, auto insurance companies started lobbying state legislatures to change laws about tort liability. These changes were designed to reduce the number of claims against them. For example, if you hit someone while driving drunk, your insurer might not pay out because you broke the law. If you had a claim, your insurer could argue that you should have known better.

A motorist who was speeding might not be able to collect all the damages even if the other party was at least partially responsible for the collision. For example, a motorist might not be able to recover the cost of repairing his vehicle after an accident caused by another driver who changed lanes in front of him without signaling.

Car Accident Liability and Common Law

The fault is a legal term that describes the cause of injury or damage. The fault is usually determined by the court after a trial. A fault may be divided into two categories: Legal and equitable. The legal fault is what the law says caused the injury or damage. The equitable fault is what the parties say caused the injury or damage, regardless of what the law says. For example, if you were hit by a car while crossing the street, the driver could be found at fault because he ran a stop sign. However, if you were walking across the street when you were hit, the pedestrian could be found at fault for not paying attention to his surroundings.

Under strict liability, a manufacturer or seller must prove that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous when sold. A defect is anything that causes the product to fail to meet its intended purpose. An unreasonably dangerous product is one that creates an unreasonable risk of injury or damage. For example, if a child swallows a piece of metal, the manufacturer of the toy could be held strictly liable because it knew or should have known that children were likely to swallow the toy. If a child falls down a flight of stairs and breaks his leg, the stair manufacturer could be held strictly liable.

When an accident happens, there are usually multiple parties involved. One party might be at fault, while another might not be. If you're injured in an accident, your first step should be to contact an attorney. An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you understand what happened and figure out who else could be liable. Then, if necessary, he or she will file a claim against those other parties.

Motor Vehicle Statutory Violations

In the United States, every state has passed multiple laws regarding the operation of automobiles. Some of these statutes are actually coded versions of the common law. Others were enacted through legislative initiatives. Regardless of the source, all of them are designed to protect the public from harm caused by negligent driving. A violation of any of these statutes will create a presumption of negligence as a matter of law. For example, many states require motorists to wear seatbelts. If you fail to comply with this statute, you will be presumed to be negligent if you cause injury to another person.

Fault in an accident may be determined simply by citing a statute that was broken. A driver who violates a traffic law may be presumed to have caused an automobile accident. But if the driver proves that he did not break the law, then he cannot be held liable for any resulting damages. For example, a motorcycle rider who fails to wear a helmet suffers serious head trauma when his vehicle collides with another. The driver may have been negligent, yet the motorcycle rider who failed to wear a helmet may not be at fault.

The easiest way to think about the proximate cause is to imagine if you were driving your car and someone ran into your car. Would it be fair to say that, “but for” the other driver running into your car, you wouldn’t have had an accident? Most likely, the answer is yes. If you were in a car accident, the law will hold you responsible for any damages caused by your negligence. You could also be charged with reckless driving if you acted recklessly while driving.

Get Legal Help With Your Car Accident Fault and Liability Questions

If you're in a car accident, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, immediately. You could be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and other costs associated with the collision.

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