Groups » What You Need to Know About Car Accident Liability

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If you have met with a car accident, the first thing you need to prove is who was liable for it. In other words, you need to prove in the court of law who made the mistake or was negligent enough to cause the accident. Even if it is obvious, just saying that won't be enough as insurance companies will need the proof before they release your damage claim. You need to support your side of the story with a stronger argument and evidences, when dealing with the insurance companies.

In this post we discuss everything you need to know about car accident liability so that you can make your argument stronger.

Determining Legal Liability

Determining legal liability for a car accident is a rather complicated process. Generally, the person who caused the collision is considered as legally at fault. But there are other things you need to consider as liability is determined under the federal, state and local laws. When two or more parties are involved, the basic rule is that the person who was less careful than the others in a car accident is the one liable for it. However, it is also taken into consideration if the other party was negligent enough that lead to the accident when determining liability.

Things get even more complicated when more than one person is at fault for the accident. For instance, if several careless drivers cause a crash, there isn't any simple answer to who is legally liable to pay the damage or resulting expenses. Such cases are addressed through contributory and comparative negligence model. In general, one of the most careless parties is liable to pay the compensation but there are instances where the court barred the plaintiff from recovering any damage claim due to his/her contributory negligence.

In case you were partly responsible for the accident, you are still eligible to receive some compensation in most states. The liability of the other party is determined by comparing his/her carelessness with yours. The amount of compensation he/she needs to pay is calculated under comparative negligence model.

But it is important to remember that negligence is a complicated area of the law and although negligence statutes are fairly similar in all the U.S. states, the degree to which it is shared vary from state to state. In New York, for example, the comparative negligence laws do not bar damage recovery, however, the amount is diminished according to the plaintiff's attributable conduct. Car accident lawyers NYC can further help you verify the state law(s) and take appropriate actions based on them.

That said, it is no always the driver's negligence or carelessness that causes an accident. There are other factors as well that can contribute to the collision.

Poor Road Conditions

More often than not, poor road conditions are blamed for traffic crashes. However, you need to prove that the poor road conditions actually caused the accident and the resulting damages and injuries. The following usually falls under poor road conditions:

Breaks or cracks in the road
Sinkholes/potholes in the road
Missing guardrails
Poor street signage and/or bad instructions from flagman that confuse the drivers
Unlevel lanes
Narrow roads
Lack of adequate shoulder on the road
Construction debris in the road

If the condition of the road contributed to the accident, the government and/or agency responsible for managing the road are most likely to be liable for damages. This means, you can claim compensation not from the other 'at-fault' driver, but also from the government/agency who is in charge of the road.

But proving that the poor road conditions were actually responsible for the car damage and the injury is rather difficult. This is especially true when it comes to your car damage. Any kind of impairment caused by debris or potholes in the road is not noticeable soon after the accident. Besides, it is difficult to retrace your vehicle's route to prove what actually caused the damage. You will need witness and other kind of evidences like photos from the accident scene and/or police report to prove your point.

Even then, the government or the agency responsible for the maintenance of the road is likely to argue that the accident/damage was the result of your poor driving skills and/or other conditions such as bad weather. It is also important to remember that most government agencies are immune from lawsuits. Then again, many of these agencies have made exceptions to immunity, meaning you can sue them under specific conditions and negligence in maintaining the roads is one such exception.

Defective Cars

Driving a faulty car means you are inviting potential hazards, knowingly or unknowingly. Defective cars include vehicles that have flaws in their designs as well as those that developed problems over the life of the car. This means, if you are driving a car whose brakes are wearing out without replacing them, you are driving a defective car knowingly and in case of an accident, you are liable for it.

This is therefore recommended to look out for common problems with your car, especially those related to braking, acceleration, lights, and steering. And drive your car only after you have got them fixed. Similarly, if you are hit by another defective car and its driver was aware of the condition, he/she is liable to pay for the damages caused.

If the problem was due to a design issue or the problem was there when the car came from the factory, it falls under product liability claims. In such cases, you can file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer along with the other potential defendants and if proved, the manufacturer is liable to pay for the damages caused.


When you file for a car accident claim, the insurance companies will be more interested in determining the 'at-fault' party. And they use some specific considerations to determine it. However, it is also important for the plaintiff as well as for the defendant to understand how liability is determined so that you don't end up paying for someone else's mistakes. A car accident lawyer will not only help you in the determination of liability, but also help your get appropriately compensated by the responsible party.

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