Car Accident Scenarios: Who Is Responsible?

Following a serious car accident, you may find yourself wondering: “Who caused this accident?” The at-fault party bears responsibility for paying many of the costs associated with the accident, including the medical and pain and suffering costs of the injured party, as well as compensation for any time the injured individual misses from work. Are you struggling to figure out who’s at fault in your car accident? Below learn the most common scenarios from an experienced car accident attorney.

Scenario #1: Rear-End Collisions

Car Accident Scenarios In a rear-end collision, most of the time, the driver in the rear causes the accident. When a fast-moving vehicle strikes a slow-moving or stopped vehicle in front of it, the driver of the rear car bears responsibility for the accident. That driver may have caused the accident due to distracted driving, failing to follow the rules of the road, or speeding. Other factors, however, can contribute to a rear-end collision, changing the party that bears fault for the accident. For example:

  • If the front driver backs up, driving his or her vehicle into the car behind it, the front driver may bear responsibility for the accident. Sometimes, the front driver may decide to reverse his or her vehicle, when trying to get out of an intersection, for example. If that driver backs up without warning, however, it can cause an accident. On a steep hill, the front driver may also allow the vehicle to rock backward before accelerating. If the rear driver sits close behind the front car, the front driver may then cause an accident.
  • If the front driver lacks tail lights, he or she may bear liability for the accident. Sometimes, the driver in front may fail to properly maintain his or her vehicle. The absence of tail lights, especially if the front driver stops abruptly, can lead to an accident. In this case, the front driver may share liability for the accident with the rear driver.

Scenario #2: Right-Turn Accidents with Pedestrians and Cyclists

Most drivers know they can turn right on red. As a result, when they come to an intersection, many drivers simply turn their heads to the left to make sure that no one comes through the intersection, before proceeding with the turn. Unfortunately, this leaves those drivers blind to cyclists and pedestrians who may move across the road at the same time, resulting in an accident. In this case, the driver who failed to properly look for cyclists and pedestrians bears liability for the accident. However, in some cases, you may discover that other factors contributed to the accident. Consider the following:

  • Did the pedestrian or cyclist ignore the rules of the road? Traffic signals clearly indicate when pedestrians are permitted to cross the road, while cyclists should follow the same basic rules of the road as vehicle drivers. If the pedestrian or cyclist ignored the rules of the road, that individual may share some of the responsibility for the accident.
  • Was the pedestrian or cyclist drinking? Public drunkenness can cause pedestrians and cyclists to behave unpredictably. From staggering in front of a vehicle to weaving erratically, drunkenness can make it difficult for drivers to predict the behavior of pedestrians and cyclists. In some cases, that drunkenness can lead the pedestrian or cyclist to bear or share liability for a vehicle accident.
  • Was the pedestrian or cyclist distracted at the time of the accident? While pedestrians and cyclists can legally operate cell phones while walking or cycling, that distraction can lead to serious accidents. Distracted pedestrians and cyclists may ignore the rules of the road or fail to exercise proper precautions around larger vehicles, which can lead to serious accidents.

Scenario #3: Distracted Driving Accidents

Distracted driving can lead to serious accidents in the blink of an eye. At forty miles per hour, a vehicle travels nearly 60 feet per second. At higher rates of speed, the vehicle covers even more distance.

Most drivers do not intend for reading a text message to take up excessive amounts of time, but they may spend as much as five seconds looking down—enough time to cover a substantial amount of distance and, as a result, enough time for many hazards to occur on the road.

From the driver in front slamming on his or her brakes or a child running out in the road to a car changing lanes abruptly, anything can happen—and those possibilities can substantially increase the risk of accidents. Distracted driving does not just mean texting and driving, either. Many common behaviors can also distract drivers, including:

  • Eating and drinking while driving, especially messy foods
  • Applying makeup
  • Studying the GPS
  • Carrying on a conversation with people in the vehicle, especially loud people
  • Changing the station on the radio or changing climate controls

Distracted driving behavior does not automatically make the distracted driver responsible for an accident. It does, however, substantially increase the risk that the distracted driver will cause an accident. Oftentimes, distracted behaviors contribute to an accident, shifting part or all of the liability to the distracted driver.

Scenario #4: Drunk Driving Accidents

Drunk driving causes more than 10,000 fatal accidents each year, and many more accidents with serious injuries. Drunk drivers suffer these detriments to their ability to drive:

  • Slowed eye movement, which means it will take longer to take in events on the road
  • Slowed reaction times
  • More difficulty controlling the vehicle
  • Poor coordination
  • Decreased concentration and focus on the road
  • Poor decision-making skills

Drunk drivers do not always cause car accidents. Most of the time, however, the drunk driver substantially contributes to the accident. In some cases, drunk drivers may bear full responsibility for the accident. In other cases, however, the drunk driver may share liability with another driver, especially if that driver failed to follow the rules of the road, including speeding or ignoring traffic signals. Sometimes, the sober driver may cause more of the accident than the drunk one, alleviating the liability the drunk driver may face.

Scenario #5: T-Bone Accidents

In a T-bone accident, one car comes through an intersection, usually striking another driver on the side. T-bone accidents can cause substantial damage to both drivers’ vehicles, but these accidents cause the most damage to people on the side of the vehicle that is struck. T-bone accidents can cause severe injuries and death because of the inadequate protection offered by a vehicle’s side.

Typically, in a T-bone accident, one vehicle comes flying through an intersection without stopping. The driver might miss the presence of a stop sign or fail to notice that a light turned red. Drunk driving or distracted driving can increase the risk of a T-bone accident. Usually, in these scenarios, you might assume the driver who struck the side door of a vehicle bears liability for the accident. However, you should ask several questions to help determine liability in this scenario.

  • Which driver ran the light? In an intersection with a red light, consider which driver ignored traffic laws and came through the intersection without stopping for a red light. Usually, other drivers can easily confirm which driver ignored the light.
  • Which driver ignored a stop sign? In an accident at an intersection with a stop sign, the driver responsible for the accident may have failed to stop for the stop sign or came through the intersection after another driver had already started progressing through the intersection.
  • Were both drivers moving at the time of the accident? Sometimes, in a T-bone accident, one driver might strike another, stationary vehicle. Sometimes, a car might stall in the middle of the intersection or get stuck due to traffic. While drivers should try to avoid sitting in an intersection, sometimes, circumstances make it impossible to avoid it completely. If one vehicle had to stop, and another one strikes it in the side, the driver who moved after the other vehicle stopped bears liability for the accident.

Scenario #6: Parking Lot Accidents

Parking lots provide many opportunities for accidents. Luckily, because drivers typically travel at lower speeds in parking lots, victims may get away with less severe injuries than they would at higher rates of speed. Victims, however, may still suffer serious injuries, from spinal cord damage to crushing damage, in parking lots. Parking lot accidents may include:

  • One driver backing out of a parking space directly into another car.
  • A car whipping too fast into a parking space, striking another vehicle trying to get into that spot as well.
  • A driver hitting another vehicle while moving into a parking space.
  • A driver hitting a pedestrian in the parking lot.
  • Two vehicles colliding head-on in narrow parking lot rows.

In a parking lot accident, if a moving driver strikes a stationary vehicle, the driver in motion likely bears responsibility for the accident. This includes cars backing out of parking spaces too fast, drivers who strike parked vehicles in the lot, and drivers who back into or run over pedestrians as they attempt to enter a business. When both vehicles move at the time of the accident, the driver who failed to adhere to the rules of the road, including driving on the wrong side of the lane or failing to adhere to a safe speed within the parking lot, may bear liability for the accident. Checking the police report for your parking lot accident may help you better determine who bears liability for your accident.

Scenario #7: Mechanical Failures

Mechanical failures can cause serious problems for both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks on the road. From tire blowouts to engine problems, mechanical failures can leave many drivers unable to control their vehicles at all. In a minor collision, the insurance company of the driver whose vehicle suffered a mechanical problem will likely take care of any repair costs associated with the other driver’s vehicle.

In more severe accidents with substantial injuries, however, injured individuals might need to turn to other responsible parties to seek full compensation for their injuries. In the event of mechanical failure, several parties may share responsibility for the accident.

  • The driver whose vehicle suffered a malfunction. Drivers bear a duty of care to all other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists on the road. That duty includes taking care of their vehicles, including regular maintenance. If a driver knows that his or her vehicle needs maintenance, but fails to have basic maintenance taken care of, that driver may bear responsibility for any accidents caused by that lack of maintenance.
  • A mechanic who recently looked at the vehicle. When a mechanic looks at a vehicle, he or she is expected to provide a proper inspection of any areas of the vehicle related to recent repairs. If the mechanic repairs the vehicle improperly or fails to notice a problem that he or she should have noted at the time of the inspection, that mechanic may share responsibility for any accident caused by that lack of proper maintenance. This applies to any problems with the vehicle the mechanic should reasonably have noticed during a routine inspection or following repairs to a particular area of the vehicle. The mechanic may also bear liability if he improperly repaired the vehicle or improperly replaced components of the vehicle removed during the repair.
  • The manufacturer of the vehicle. Sometimes, manufacturers roll out vehicles with problems that can lead to serious accidents—occasionally, even with knowledge of the problem. If a manufacturer produces a vehicle with serious defects, the manufacturer may bear liability for any damage done in an accident due to those defects. The manufacturer may also bear liability if it fails to recall vehicles with known defects that cause serious accidents.
  • The manufacturer of replaced vehicle components with defects. Like the manufacturer of the vehicle, the manufacturer of any parts replaced in the vehicle must produce safe parts that will move the vehicle safely. Failure to provide safe components may cause the parts manufacturer to bear liability in an accident.

Personal Injury Lawyer Orlando, FL - Michael T. Gibson
Micheal T. Gibson

On the surface, police officers and insurance companies may think that they can easily identify the party responsible for an accident. In many actual accidents, however, the circumstances surrounding the accident change the balance of liability. You may need a lawyer to help fully determine what factors contributed to your accident and, as a result, who bears liability for your injuries. Contact an auto injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to determine your eligibility to seek compensation following an accident.

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