As you navigate the roadways, it is critical to understand the relationship between traffic violations and a car accident liability. Failure to obey the rules of the road greatly increases your risk of being involved in a collision and incurring legal and financial consequences. Examining the data on citations, crashes, and insurance claims can provide valuable insights on driving behaviors to avoid. In this article, we will explore the statistical correlations between traffic violations and at-fault accidents. You will learn which infractions most often precede collisions and how they impact determinations of fault. The goal is to make you a more informed driver, aware of the real risks associated with traffic offenses. With this knowledge, you can make positive changes and drive in a way that minimizes your chances of a crash and liability for damages.
How Traffic Violations Can Affect Liability in an Accident
As a driver, it is important to understand how your actions behind the wheel can impact your liability in the event of an accident. Traffic violations, in particular, can prove that you failed to exercise reasonable care while operating a vehicle.
- Speeding or reckless driving are aggressive violations that demonstrate a disregard for safety. Exceeding the posted speed limit or weaving through traffic increases the likelihood of an accident and may be used to prove negligence.
- Failure to obey traffic signs or signals, like running a red light or stop sign, shows that you did not make an effort to follow the rules of the road. Disobeying traffic controls puts others in danger and can be considered negligent behavior.
- Distracted driving, such as texting or using a mobile device, diverts your attention from the road. Engaging in distracting activities while driving shows a lack of due care and can make you liable for any resulting accidents.
In the aftermath of a collision, the other party may claim that your traffic violations prove you acted carelessly or recklessly. Your insurance provider may also raise your rates or drop your coverage due to a poor driving record. Multiple or severe violations can even lead to license suspension.
To limit liability and protect yourself as a driver, follow all posted speed limits, obey traffic signs and signals, avoid distractions, and practice safe driving habits. Driving cautiously and defensively can help prevent accidents in the first place, but will also provide evidence that you exercised reasonable care in the event of a collision. Safe and responsible driving is the best way to keep liability low and insurance rates affordable.
Common Violations That Increase Fault in a Crash
As a driver, it is important to follow the rules of the road to reduce accident liability. Some of the most frequent violations that can increase fault in an accident include:
Exceeding the posted speed limit reduces reaction times and impacts the ability to stop safely or change direction quickly. Speeding endangers yourself, your passengers, other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. In the event of an accident, a speeding driver will likely be found at least partially at fault.
Running red lights or stop signs
Failure to stop at traffic signals or stop signs is extremely dangerous and illegal. Running a red light or stop sign greatly increases the chance of a collision and the resulting liability. Always come to a complete stop, check for oncoming traffic, and proceed only when safe.
Improper lane changes
Changing lanes without signaling your intention to other drivers or not checking blind spots and ensuring the path is clear before changing lanes can easily lead to an accident. Improper or unsafe lane changes demonstrate negligence and a lack of care for others on the road.
Following too closely behind another vehicle reduces reaction time in case of sudden stops or directional changes. Tailgating prevents other drivers from seeing your vehicle in their mirrors and limits your own visibility. Maintain a safe distance between you and surrounding vehicles at all times.
By exercising caution, following the rules of the road, and being considerate of all others on the road, you can significantly reduce accident liability and ensure safer travel for all.
When a Violation May Not Impact Liability
While traffic violations often correlate with a higher likelihood of accident liability, there are certain situations where a violation may not necessarily impact liability. For example, if another driver’s negligence clearly caused the accident, your violation may be considered irrelevant. If dangerous road conditions or a vehicle malfunction outside of your control contributed to the crash, liability may be mitigated.
In some cases, the type of violation itself may not warrant a finding of liability. Minor infractions like a broken taillight, expired registration, or failure to signal typically do not prove negligence or fault in an accident. More serious offenses like speeding or distracted driving are more likely to impact liability, but not always conclusively. The specific circumstances surrounding the accident and violation must be examined.
If the violation was not proximate in time or location to the accident, it may be deemed coincidental rather than causal. For instance, if you were ticketed for speeding on a highway hours before an accident at an intersection, the violation would not be pertinent to liability in the crash. Liability depends on the direct actions or inactions that led to the accident, not general driving habits.
Ultimately, liability rests on determining which party or parties failed to exercise reasonable care and caution. While violations can reflect poor judgment or unsafe driving practices, they do not automatically prove fault or negligence in an accident. Investigators and insurance companies evaluate the details and events leading up to the crash to identify its proximate cause. If another factor beyond your control primarily caused or contributed to the accident, a violation alone may not suffice to establish liability.
In summary, when a traffic violation may not conclusively prove accident liability includes:
- When another driver’s negligence clearly caused the crash
- Dangerous conditions or vehicle malfunctions outside of your control
- Minor infractions unrelated to the accident
- Violations not proximate in time or location to the accident
- Other factors proving to primarily cause or contribute to the crash
Using Violations to Prove Negligence and Recover Damages
When involved in an automobile accident, the at-fault driver can often be proven negligent based on their history of traffic violations and reckless driving. As the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to recover damages for injuries and losses by establishing that the defendant had a pattern of irresponsible behavior behind the wheel prior to your accident.
Driving Record as Evidence
The driving records for both the plaintiff and defendant are obtainable through the DMV or Department of Licensing by means of a records request. The plaintiff's attorney will analyze the defendant's driving record to determine if there are any violations, accidents or other infractions preceding the incident in question. A history of speeding tickets, red light running, DUI's or license suspensions can be used to show that the at-fault driver had a tendency for careless or inattentive driving and did not take proper care to avoid endangering others on the road.
Proving Willful Disregard for Safety
Repeated violations, especially those involving unlawful speed, intoxication or distraction can be used to establish that the defendant willfully disregarded the safety of other motorists and pedestrians. By consciously choosing to break traffic laws and endanger others through irresponsible driving habits over a period of time, the defendant demonstrated a reckless indifference to the consequences of their actions. The plaintiff's attorney will argue that this pattern of behavior directly resulted in the negligent act that caused the accident and subsequent harm to the plaintiff.
In some cases, a driving record rife with major violations may warrant a claim for punitive damages against the defendant. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for especially willful or malicious acts and deter such negligent behavior in the future. By imposing higher costs, punitive damages force the at-fault driver and their insurance provider to recognize the severity of damage caused by irresponsible driving habits and make changes to prevent future harm. The goal is to make the roads safer for all.
FAQ - How a Texas Car Accident Lawyer Can Help if You Had a Violation
If you have been in a car accident in Texas and received a traffic violation, you may have questions about how that affects your ability to pursue compensation. A reputable Texas car accident lawyer can advise you on the implications and help build your case.
How will a traffic violation impact my claim?
Having a traffic violation at the time of an accident may complicate your claim, but does not necessarily prevent you from recovering damages. Your attorney will review the details of your violation notice and accident report to determine fault and liability. If the other driver was also partly or entirely at fault, you may still have a valid claim. Your lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf and represent you in court if needed.
Should I contest the traffic violation?
In some cases, it may benefit you to contest a traffic violation received at the time of an accident. Your attorney can review the details of your specific situation to determine if contesting the violation may help establish fault or reduce liability on your part. If the violation was improperly issued or does not accurately reflect the circumstances of the accident, contesting it may be advisable. Your lawyer can represent you in traffic court to contest the violation.
How else can an attorney assist me?
Beyond contesting traffic violations and determining liability, a qualified car accident lawyer can fully investigate your accident, gather evidence to support your claim, and handle all communication with insurance companies and the other parties involved. They can calculate the total value of your damages which may include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and other costs. Your attorney will work to recover the maximum compensation you are due in a settlement or in court if a fair settlement cannot be reached.
In summary, while a traffic violation may complicate a car accident claim, an experienced attorney can determine how to best proceed based on the details of your unique situation. They can contest improper violations, establish liability, and fully represent your interests to recover damages from all responsible parties.
So in summary, while committing traffic violations does not automatically make you liable in an accident, it can still work against you in establishing fault and collecting damages. The best practice is always to follow traffic laws, consult with a legal counsel from lawyers at Fletcher Law and drive defensively. But if an accident does occur, your driving record and actions leading up to the crash will be scrutinized. Having a clean history and minimizing unsafe behaviors gives you the best chance of avoiding liability. Being found even partially at fault can reduce any injury claim award. So for your own good, drive safely, cautiously and legally.