What is Negligence?
According to Cornell Law School, negligence is “a failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
This can appear as a gray area to some, but to break it down further, four common elements can be detailed to provide proof of negligence. The first is the existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff. Second, the defendant breached this duty, and third, resulting in injury to the plaintiff. Finally, the cause of injury can be directly related to the breach of duty. If these four elements are proven, negligence can be a factor that courts will recognize.
How Does Negligence Apply to Driving?
Negligence can apply to driving in several ways. We will discuss some of the most common examples below.
Driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol (DUI), for example, is considered negligent. If a driver is impaired either through alcohol or drugs and chooses to operate a vehicle, this is negligence. The driver’s ability to react in a reasonable way or timeframe to safety issues can quickly lead to accidents.
Speeding is another common negligent driver issue. Driving too fast doesn’t allow the driver to stop or navigate traffic safely, leading to accidents. Accident severity also increases due to speeds that are above the limit.
Distracted driving is one of the most common forms of negligent driving. Whether the driver is texting, eating, taking their hands or eyes off the focus of driving, and more can lead to accidents easily.
Fatigued driving also leads to accidents. Though this is common in semi-trucks or long-haul transporters, standard drivers are also at risk for drowsy driving. Without sufficient rest, you are at risk of cognitive delays or making decisions while driving that you usually wouldn’t, putting yourself and others at risk of accidents.
Failure to yield at a right of way and to adhere to stop signs, stoplights, or other roadway rules can lead to accidents. The driver can easily be found negligent if they ignore posted signs or laws in their area, leading to an accident. These actions can sometimes be considered reckless driving, leading to penalties.
Are Reckless Driving and Negligent Driving the Same?
Reckless driving is a little different in that it typically is defined as driving in a way that poses a significant, substantial, or unjustifiable risk to themselves and others on the road. Excessive speeding, evading police, running red lights, swerving into oncoming traffic, racing, and more are all examples of reckless driving.
Reckless driving typically results in significant penalties and possibly time in jail. Negligent driving doesn’t always result in such significant penalties. Still, if found to be negligent in causing an accident, it can mean that you are responsible for the entirety of the damages that resulted.
What if I Was in an Accident With Someone Who Was Driving Negligently?
One of the main reasons you hear advice like “don’t admit fault immediately” after an accident is that you may not be aware of all of the details relating to the accident. Suppose multiple drivers are responsible for an accident, and one is found negligent due to impairment. In that case, you may not be liable for damages, even if you are partially responsible for the accident.
For example, if you are in traffic and decide to change lanes, check your blindspots and begin to pass to the other lane. Just as you do this, an impaired driver runs into a car in the other lane, pushing them into your vehicle. You may assume that you didn’t check your blind spot effectively, made a mistake, and didn’t see the other driver, which led to the accident. In reality, an impaired driver had pushed another vehicle into yours, leading to the accident.
If you prematurely admit fault for your actions, you may be found at fault and responsible for the damages. If facts are gathered accurately, and accident recreation or surveillance video can prove that the other driver was negligent, this can absolve you of some or all of the damages.
How To Prove Driving Negligence
Facts can be gathered after an accident occurs that show the other driver was negligent. Examples such as video or pictures, police reports, or accident recreation can lead to findings of negligence.
Typical examples are that after the accident, it was found that the other driver was texting just before or during the accident. It can also be found that the other driver was impaired, but you may not be aware of that immediately after the accident if you are rushed from the scene to seek medical attention. Accident recreation can also provide evidence of speeding, tailgating, or other negligent driving actions.
How Can Personal Injury Lawyers Help Me?
Proving fault can sometimes be challenging. An experienced and effective lawyer can help you gather evidence proving the negligence of other drivers and help you fight for the damages you deserve. They can communicate with eyewitnesses, gather surveillance footage, and more. They can also communicate with the other parties, insurance companies, or other lawyers involved in your case.
Accidents occur every minute of every day. If you haven’t been involved in one, you may not know what steps to take to protect yourself best. Contact our office at (706) 954-6745 to learn the steps to ensure you are protecting yourself and your rights, and allow us to help you do so. We have several years of experience helping clients and are confident we can help you, too.