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Understanding negligence in a car accident case

If you sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident, you may consider filing a lawsuit to obtain compensation. As in most other types of personal injury cases, Arizona car accident claims involve the question of negligence.

If you want a defendant to bear responsibility for the damages you suffered, the law requires you to show he or she caused the harm by acting negligently. In the legal world, the idea of negligence has its own specific meaning that often depends on the facts of the situation.

Duty of care to drive safely

At its most basic, negligence is the failure to perform a duty of care with reasonable adequacy. What legal duty does an Arizona driver owe to other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians? Generally, motorists have an obligation to drive with reasonable safety: obeying traffic rules, staying alert and avoiding hazards.

Some examples of negligent conduct may include running a red light, speeding, or failing to keep a proper lookout when turning or changing lanes. However, conduct that may seem reasonable in one situation can be unsafe in a different setting.

Finding out the facts

Because car accidents typically happen very fast, it can be difficult to accurately reconstruct the chain of events. In many cases, the police report and witness statements provide a valuable starting point. Your attorney may also conduct additional investigation and evaluation.

Potential additional defendants

In some cases, it may turn out that someone other than the driver acted negligently. For example, you may learn that the accident happened due to improper road signage or debris left in the road by a construction company. Sometimes, the accident occurs due to a defective part in one of the drivers' vehicles. Malfunctioning street lights or defective road surfaces can also cause or contribute to accidents.

If you were at fault as well

If a jury determines some of the fault for the accident rests with you, you may still be able to recover damages after the subtraction of a percentage of the award proportional to your fault. Thus, a jury may determine that you suffered $30,000 worth of damages and were 10 percent at fault. You would then receive a final award of $27,000. However, you may not be able to recover if your contribution to causing the accident stems from reckless or intentionally wrongful conduct rather than negligence.


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  • Lead Counsel Rated LC
  • Paul Faith David Ledyard Distinguished AV | Peer Review Rated | LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell | For Ethical Standards & Legal Ability

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