Motor Vehicle Accidents—The Duties of Drivers
What Must a Driver Do to Exercise “Reasonable Care”?
In a civil lawsuit for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident, the legal principle of negligence usually applies. Under that theory, the injured party must prove that the defendant caused the accident by failing to use reasonable care. Statutes generally don’t specify the behaviors that constitute a failure to use appropriate care, but there are certain duties that juriesconsistently deem to be wrongful:
- Failure to drive at a reasonable speed—In most instances, this means driving too fast, either in violation of posted speed limits or without due regard for the circumstances, such as inclement weather or construction. It also can mean driving too slowly—for example, traveling 10 miles per hour on an expressway may be unreasonable under certain circumstances.
- Failure to monitor the road and traffic—Distracted driving is one of the leading causesof injury on the roads. Juries typically hold that a driver has a duty to be alert and monitor the roadway for other vehicles or hazards.
- Failure to maintain control of the vehicle—It’s reasonable to expect a driver to maintain control of his or her car, employing proper turning, signal, acceleration, and braking actions.
- Failure to maintain the vehicle—Drivers are expected to conduct routine maintenance on their vehicles to ensure that all components are in safe working order, including brakes, steering, lights, and tires.
It’s important to understand that there are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a breach of the duty of care by a motor vehicle operator. It’s determined by the jury on a case-by-case basis.
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