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What are the layers of fault and liability in a car accident?


The term “car accident” can be a bit misleading. Many “accidents” can be traced back to some action — or failure to act — by one of the parties involved in the car crash. Perhaps a drunk driver was the cause of the accident, or maybe a person was texting and driving at the time of the crash. Or, maybe there was some type of defect on one of the automobiles that led to a loss of control. There are many different ways in which a car crash can occur, but they are never completely by “accident.”

But there are differences in the level of fault involved in an auto accident. It starts with negligence, the lowest layer. A negligent driver is one who was simply careless in their actions or inactions, and the result was a car collision. Activities such as failure to be aware of surroundings and distracted driving will typically fall into the negligence category. The person did not purposefully cause the crash, but their careless actions or inactions caused the damage.

The next level is recklessness. A reckless driver is one who does something by their own volition that places others in danger. Drunk drivers fall into this category. Everyone knows that it is dangerous to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol, yet every year thousands of Americans are killed or injured in car crashes caused by drunk drivers. This activity is reckless and dangerous.

Lastly there is the level of intentional conduct. This level is fairly self-explanatory, and is not as common as negligent or reckless behavior. This level implies that a driver willful caused the damage that is the result of a car crash by their action or inaction.

Source: FindLaw, “Fault and Liability for Motor Vehicle Accidents,” Accessed June 3, 2016