Theories of Liability 

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THEORIES OF LIABILITY

 

Negligence

 

Deciding whether a driver was negligent in a motor vehicle accident can be difficult.  Sometimes you may feel that another driver, a cyclist, or a pedestrian didn’t use a reasonable amount of care, but you may not know exactly which rule or rules he or she broke.  An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to help you determine if another person was negligent.  The attorney will consider many sources, including state traffic laws, police reports and the statements of witnesses to the accident.

 

Courts consider many variables in making a determination that a driver or another person was negligent.  

These variables may include:

 

  • Failing to follow traffic signs and signals

  • Disobeying traffic laws

  • Driving on the wrong side of the road

  • Neglecting to signal a turn

  • Driving faster or slower than the posted speed limit

  • Ignoring traffic or weather conditions

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs 

 

Recklessness

 

A driver may also be held responsible for an accident if he or she acted recklessly.  Reckless driving is driving unsafely, with “willful and wanton disregard” for the possibility that such action will cause an accident.  Reckless drivers intentionally disregard the possible consequences of their actions while driving.  For example, a driver may be found reckless if he or she threatens or harasses another person while driving out of “road rage” and causes an accident.  Road rage is defined as “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.”  Criminal charges may also result.

 

Aggressive drivers are those who speed, tailgate, move quickly from lane to lane, flash their headlights excessively and use other dangerous driving techniques.  Police officers and traffic safety officers are increasing efforts to catch and punish these aggressive drivers.  Aggressive driving is defined by the NHTSA as “a progression of unlawful driving actions,” such as:

 

  • Speeding, which can be either going faster than the posted speed limit or driving too fast for current conditions

  • Improper passing by either failing to signal, using an emergency lane to pass, or passing on the shoulder of the road

  • Improper or excessive lane changing

  • Failing to signal a turn

  • Failure to yield to oncoming traffic

 

The NHTSA offers the following tips on how to avoid an accident with aggressive drivers:

 

  • Get out of their way; do everything in your power to get out of the way of an aggressive driver

  • Don’t let your pride get the better of you; don’t challenge the aggressive driver by speeding up or trying to hold your place in your travel lane

  • Avoid eye contact; sometimes looking at an aggressive driver can make them even angrier

  • Avoid gestures; ignore any rude gestures made towards you and don’t make any gestures yourself

  • Report seriously aggressive drivers to the police.  Remember to pull over to the side of the road, however, if you use a cell phone.

 

Injuries and Damages

 

In general, a person who is injured in a car accident can be compensated for the actual costs of their medical expenses, property damage, economic damages (such as loss of income), as well as physical and emotional pain and suffering.  Lawsuits over motor vehicles accidents can be very complex.  In order to get the amount of compensation to which you are entitled, you should speak with a personal injury attorney who is experienced in motor vehicle accidents and compensation.

 

Damages

 

In all negligence cases, including car accidents, the injured person may be compensated for the costs of medical and rehabilitative services, physical and mental pain and suffering, lost income (both past and future), permanent injury or impairment and permanent scarring or disfigurement.  Other damages that are typical in motor vehicle accident cases include physical property damage, reasonably foreseeable medical expenses, and loss of enjoyment of life.  Just because you had a previous injury does not necessarily bar you from being compensated for new injuries.  An injured party may still be compensated for worsening or exacerbating an old injury.  A good way for a person injured in an accident to document how his or her injuries affect their life is to keep a diary or journal that describes how the injury affects him or her every day as well as his or her immediate family.  This diary or journal will be helpful in determining the type and amount of compensation that is appropriate.

 

Damages for Family Members

 

In addition to compensation received by the person injured in the car accident, the injured person’s spouse may also be eligible for compensation.  A spouse can recover for harm to the marital relationship, known as “loss of consortium.”  Generally, both the husband and the wife ask for this type of compensation.  Loss of consortium refers to any harm to the martial relationship that was caused by the accident.  This harm may include loss of the spouse’s love, companionship, reassurance, affection, consolation, moral support, sexual relationship, ability to have children, as well as the spouse’s physical assistance in operation and maintenance of a home.   Loss of consortium does not have to be permanent, it can also be temporary.

 

Attorneys

Humboldt Office

30 N 8th Street

P.O. Box 337

Humboldt, Iowa

Tel: 515-332-1157 

info@humboldtlaw.com

Laurens Office

130 S 3rd Street

P.O. Box 91

Laurens, IA 50554

Tel: 712-841-4523

*Formely Winkler Law

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© 2019 by Humboldt Law.

The information you obtain at our firm web site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. It is recommended that you should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.