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How to determine fault and liability in a car accident

In a lot of traffic accidents, it is fairly obvious which parties are liable for the resulting damages and injuries. However, some factual scenarios may require more investigation by a Tennessee personal injury attorney to determine who is at fault, and who may be required to pay for the damages and injuries of other parties. This article will review how personal injury lawyers establish fault and liability in a car crash. First, we will begin with fault.

Establishing fault in a car crash

Under common law, there are four primary forms of fault: negligence, recklessness, intentional misconduct and strict liability.

Negligence: Negligence refers to the inadvertent or careless conduct by a person, business or organization that causes damage or harm to another party. In the case of a car accident, this negligence usually involves a driver's failure to take reasonable action to prevent harm to others. That might involve a driver's failure to be attentive to the road around him or her, or failure to maintain a vehicle in safe working order. However, there are so many more ways that negligence can occur.

Recklessness: Recklessness involves the willful, or purposeful, disregard of the welfare and safety of others. For example, a driver who was doing his or her hair or makeup while also driving a vehicle would be considered reckless because the behavior endangers others.

Intentional misconduct: In the context of a car accident, intentional misconduct could involve any manner by which a motor vehicle driver breaks the law. For example, a driver might be traveling faster than the speed limit, drunk driving, purposefully driving through a red light, or committing other traffic violations.

Strict liability: Strict liability relates usually to car accidents caused by defective products made by negligent or intentionally negligent manufacturers. It could also relate to extremely hazardous activities like driving with explosive chemicals in the back of a truck.

Establishing liability in a car crash

Once fault for the car crash has been established by one of the above methods, or another one, it is then up to the attorney to determine if the at-fault party's actions caused and/or contributed to the other party's injuries. There could be some disagreement over this issue, especially if the defense attorney successfully points out that the plaintiff's actions also contributed to the accident.

If, for example, the plaintiff was speeding exorbitantly at the time of a crash, which was caused by a different driver who was drunk, arguments might be made that if the plaintiff had been driving the speed limit, his or her injuries would be less severe. In these situations, fault and liability may be divided among the parties. Although the plaintiff might still be able to recover damages, monetary damage award might be reduced to reflect the way the plaintiff's actions increased the severity of his or her injuries as well.

There could also exist situations in which two defendants are at fault for an accident and injuries, and, in this situation, the liability would be divided among the defendants.

Getting help from a personal injury attorney

Tennessee residents who have been hurt in motor vehicle crashes may want to speak with a personal injury attorney that handles car accident claims. Such an attorney can evaluate the facts surrounding the accident and injuries to determine fault and liability, and devise a legal strategy to recoup financial compensation when appropriate. 

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