What Is Auto Accident Negligence?
What is auto accident negligence? This is a common question we get as personal injury lawyers from people who have been involved in car accidents.
It’s important you know what negligence is: it’s a key factor in personal injury claims, and can affect whether you get compensation for your injuries, property damage, and emotional distress.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about auto accident negligence.
Negligence in Auto Accidents
Under the law, “negligence” is defined as a person failing to exercise reasonable care, causing injury or damage to another person (or their property).
When it comes to auto accidents, most involve some sort of negligence. Except in freak accidents (for example, “acts of God”), there are usually one or more people whose negligence caused a crash.
That negligence might involve the person doing something they shouldn’t have been doing, like:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Driving while texting
- Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs
- Falling asleep behind the wheel
- Following too closely
- Road rage
- Going too fast around a corner
- Driving on the wrong side of the road or the wrong way around a roundabout
Negligence can also involve not doing something they should have done, like:
- Neglecting the maintenance of their car
- Failing to yield to a pedestrian
- Failing to yield the right of way to another vehicle
- Forgetting to turn on their headlights while driving at night
What is considered reasonable care versus negligence can often depend on the circumstances. Drivers are, of course, required to obey all traffic laws, keep their vehicle under control, be on the lookout for hazards, and maintain their vehicle in road-safe conditions.
In some circumstances, however, obeying a traffic law could be negligent. How could that be? Here are three examples when obeying the regular posted speed limit could be negligent:
- Weather conditions (like snow, ice, or fog) make driving at the speed limit dangerous.
- Visibility from your vehicle is low (for example, because your windshield is dirty or covered in snow, or because there are roadside obstructions that block your view).
- You are driving through a school zone during a school day with children nearby.
In other circumstances, someone who wasn’t even involved in the crash can be considered negligent! For example, if your car is illegally parked and blocks the view of a stop sign, you might be considered negligent if your actions result in a collision in that intersection.
Negligence & Fault in Auto Accident Claims
Under personal injury law, to bring a successful claim against another person, you need to prove they were at fault for your injuries and damages. In auto accidents, this generally involves proving the other driver was negligent.
A negligent driver who caused your accident would be legally and financially on the hook for your medical bills, lost wages, car repair, and other damages from the accident.
But how is negligence determined? What happens if more than one person was negligent?
Ohio’s Comparative Negligence Law
Since 1980, Ohio has had a “comparative negligence” law. What does this mean?
To explain, let’s contrast this law with “contributory negligence,” which was Ohio’s old law.
Under contributory negligence law, if you were at all negligent in your accident, you couldn’t bring a personal injury claim. Even if you were 1 percent at fault, and the other driver was 99 percent at fault, you were prohibited from collecting damages. (Not particularly fair, we know.)
Comparative negligence law, on the other hand, allows you to bring a claim even if you share some fault for the accident. If you were mostly not at fault—aka the other driver was 51 percent at fault, and you were 49 percent at fault—you can file a claim.
However, Ohio courts will reduce the amount of compensation you are awarded, based on your percentage of negligence. Here’s an example:
You were seriously injured, and your car totaled, in an accident with another driver. The other driver failed to yield the right of way and hit you while making a left turn. However, you were found to have been speeding. In this example, the other driver might be 75 percent at fault for making an illegal left turn and hitting you; you might be 25 percent at fault for speeding, which contributed to the crash. (Had you not been speeding, the other driver might have completed the left turn safely.) If you bring a personal injury claim against the other driver, and are awarded $100,000, your compensation would be reduced 25 percent. In the end, you’d be awarded $75,000.
How Is Negligence Determined?
Insurance companies look at the facts surrounding your accident to make their determinations. They will take statements from you and the other driver involved, look at the police report, and examine other sources of information. However, determining negligence can be tricky. Insurance companies don’t always get it right, and you might disagree with your percent of negligence.
When it comes to auto accident claims, it helps to work with an experienced attorney about your case. A qualified attorney can help you prove fault by collecting and presenting evidence of the other driver’s negligence. In addition, a good attorney will fight for the compensation you need to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and any other damages.
Talk to an Auto Accident Attorney Today
We’re here to help you recover from your accident. Call us today to talk to a dedicated auto accident attorney about your case.