What is Negligence?

Negligence is a legal term that means someone has failed to act in a reasonably careful and responsible manner. In the case of a car crash, proving negligence means showing that:

  • the defendant failed to operate the motor vehicle in a reasonably prudent manner;
  • The failure to operate the vehicle caused a crash; and
  • The crash caused harm to another person or property.

If more than one party is involved in the accident and more than one party is negligent, liability may be allocated across the negligent parties according to percentage of fault. This is called comparative negligence.

Common Types of Negligence in Car Accidents

Some of the most common types of negligence that cause car accidents are:

Driving While Distracted. A car is a large, heavy piece of metal traveling at high speed.  Every driver owes a duty to others to pay attention when they drive their car.  If a driver doesn’t pay attention, the driver is negligent.  Distracted drivers account for approximately 80 percent of auto accidents.  Each year, motorists cause thousands of driving accidents while texting, making cell phone calls, putting on makeup and performing other tasks.

Traffic Law Violations. Every driver owes a duty to others to obey the rules of the road.  When a driver chooses to disobey the rules of the road, the driver is negligent and is responsible to make up for the harm the driver causes.  Most car accidents can be traced to negligence in the form of one or more traffic violations. Common violations include speeding, tailgating, improper lane changing, and failing to yield the right of way.

Driver Error. Utah law requires drivers to maintain control of their vehicles at all times.  When a driver fails to maintain control of a vehicle, it can usually be traced back to driver error.  Factors contributing to driver error include fatigue, drowsiness, distractions (cell phone use, eating, etc.), inattention, intoxication (drugs, alcohol, medications) and aggressive driving. A study conducted by Virginia Tech University in 2006 showed 80 percent of motor vehicle crashes involved distraction, fatigue or looking away from the road. The same study showed that 93 percent of rear-end collisions occurred as a consequence of inattention. Note that harm caused by driving under the influence is not just a criminal violation — it can also be grounds for a civil suit.

Equipment Failure. Mechanical failures leading to car accidents often involve brakes, tires, steering mechanisms or suspension. A malfunction might point to negligence on the part of the owner or operator of the car, a mechanic or auto repair shop or the manufacturer for designing flawed equipment (e.g., seatbelts, airbags or roofs). Some of the best known cases of equipment failure involve manufacturer design flaws and often result in class action lawsuits involving large settlements. If you suspect equipment failure or a manufacturing defect contributed to an accident you were involved in, be sure to retain possession of your car so that it can be used as evidence in a trial, if necessary.

Road Design.Flawed road design can involve intersections, merging lanes, traffic control devices and other factors. When the design of the road is a contributing factor in a car accident, the government may be liable.

Compensation for Car Accidents

If you are not more than 50% at fault for a car wreck, you are entitled to compensation.  The law requires negligent people to pay the following types of compensation:

  • Vehicle repair or replacement;
  • Medical expenses paid;
  • Lost income;
  • Lost household services;
  • Physical and psychological pain.

Utah is a no-fault State.  What that means is that an accident victim can only make a claim against the other driver if the victim reaches threshold.  There are several ways to reach threshold.  The most common is to incur more than $3,000 in medical expenses.