Car accidents give rise to the issue of who legally is at fault, which can lead to arguments over who is legally responsible for the damages and injuries sustained as a result of the car accident. There are a number of factors that come into consideration when considering fault liability following a car accident.
Duty of Care
In order for a person to be found at fault as a result of an automobile accident, there must exist a duty of care. For example, a driver of an automobile on a public roadway owes a duty to exercise reasonable care for the welfare of others when operating a motor vehicle. On the other hand, a passenger in a motor vehicle has a lesser duty of care. In the case of a passenger, his or her duty of care focuses on not distracting the driver or otherwise hampering the ability of the driver to safely operate the vehicle.
Breach of Duty
A demonstration must be made that a driver deviated from his or her duty of care, or breached that duty, in order to be deemed responsible for damages or injuries stemming from an accident. For example, a driver breaches his or her duty of care if he or she operates a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
The breach of duty by the driver must be what legally is known as the proximate cause of the accident and thus the damages and injuries. In other words, the breach of duty must be the actual cause of the accident, damages and injuries. For example, if a dam broke causing flood waters to suddenly rush down a roadway causing one vehicle to collide with another, the proximate cause is the broken dam. Based on this specific set of facts, neither driver would be legally responsible for the accident, damages or injuries.
Actual Damages and Injuries
Finally, a driver of a motor vehicle is responsible for provable and not speculative damages following a collision. If the other driver suffers a broken leg because of the other driver, that represents actual damage or injury. On the other hand, lacking any medical evidence in support, a person cannot make a claim that he or she might have some sort of leg problem at some distant future date because of the collision.