To receive compensation for a Pennsylvania car accident, an injury victim must prove that another driver was negligent and that the driver’s negligence caused the accident. The car accident lawyers at KaplanMarx have the skill and experience that is required to convince juries and insurance companies that an accident was caused by another person’s negligent driving.
Liability for Pennsylvania Car Accidents
Negligence means carelessness. In the words of the law, every driver has a duty to use reasonable care to avoid harming other persons. A driver who fails to exercise reasonable care is negligent. Negligence can involve an affirmative act of careless driving (such as racing or driving too fast for road conditions) or a passive failure to drive carefully (such as failing to look for oncoming traffic when entering an intersection). Either kind of negligence can create liability for the negligent driver. Liability refers to responsibility for negligent conduct. A negligent driver is liable when the driver’s negligence causes another person’s injuries. Drivers who are liable for injuries may be required to pay compensation to the injury victim.
Common Examples of Driving Negligence
Drivers who violate traffic safety laws are nearly always found to be negligent when the violation causes or contributes to an accident. Examples of negligent driving that may violate a traffic safety law include:
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Texting while driving
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Failing to yield the right of way
- Straying outside of lane markers
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
- Making an illegal turn
- Failing to signal a turn
Other acts of negligence may not violate any specific law. For example, many instances of distracted driving do not violate a traffic safety law, but a driver may be negligent while engaging in those acts. Unwrapping a drive-through meal, putting on makeup in the rearview mirror, and talking on a cellphone are examples of conduct that may not violate traffic safety laws, but may be the kind of carelessness that causes an accident. Commercial drivers are required to limit their driving hours so that they are not fatigued when they are behind the wheel, but no such laws restrict the conduct of ordinary drivers. Driving while fatigued can nevertheless be negligent if it reduces alertness. Failing to check blind spots before changing lanes, failing to look to the rear while backing, and turning into the path of an oncoming motorcycle are additional examples of negligent driving that can create liability for an accident.
In many cases, an accident is caused by the combined negligence of two drivers. For instance, an injury victim with the right of way might enter an intersection despite the fact that an oncoming car does not appear to be slowing down. If the injury victim is T-boned in the accident, both the oncoming driver and the victim might share responsibility for the accident. Pennsylvania has a comparative negligence law that allows an injured driver to recover compensation from another driver, even when injury victim was negligent. However, the injured driver can only recover compensation if he or she was less negligent than the other driver. The law is known as “comparative negligence” because the negligence of both drivers (or all drivers, if more than two drivers were negligent) is compared to determine how much of the fault for an accident rests on each driver. In the example above, the driver who failed to yield the right of way might be 80% at fault for the resulting accident, while the injured driver might be 20% at fault for entering the intersection despite knowing that the other driver was not slowing down. Compensation is proportionate to the comparative negligence of the drivers. In the example above, if fair compensation for the driver’s injuries would be $20,000 without considering fault, that amount would be reduced by 20% to account for the driver’s own negligence. The injured driver would therefore receive compensation of $16,000.
Negligence in Multiple-Car Accidents
Comparative negligence can be more complicated when more than two drivers share responsibility for the accident. That sometimes happens in multiple-car accidents. Under Pennsylvania law, when a driver is at least 60% negligent, the driver can be made to pay all damages caused by all drivers who are more responsible for the accident than the injury victim. For example, assume that four drivers all enter an intersection and contribute to a multiple-vehicle crash. The injury victim was 5% at fault, two other drivers are each 10% at fault, while the last driver is 75% at fault. The victim can recover 95% of full compensation from the driver who was 75% at fault. That makes it easier for the victim to collect compensation.
Proof of Negligence
Personal injury lawyers prove negligence in many ways. When a driver violates a law that promotes traffic safety, the violation may be sufficient proof of negligence. Negligence can be established by:
- The driver’s admissions to an investigating officer
- The driver’s admissions while testifying in a deposition
- Statements or testimony from witnesses who saw the accident
- Statements or testimony from the injury victim
- Video evidence
- Physical evidence (such as debris at the accident site or vehicle damage)
- Expert evidence (for example, the testimony of an accident reconstruction expert)
In some cases, a jury will need to decide whether a driver was negligent. In most cases, however, negligence is sufficiently clear that the responsible driver’s insurance company will agree to settle. The injury attorneys at KaplanMarx use all our skill and experience to help our clients prove the negligence of the drivers who cause their Pennsylvania accident injuries. We are able to settle most cases, but when insurance companies refuse to be reasonable, we aren’t afraid to prove negligence to a jury in order to maximize the compensation our clients receive.