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While driving is a great way for you to quickly get from point A to point B, we often take for granted that it can also be dangerous in the event that you or other drivers aren’t paying full attention to the road and your surroundings. Car accidents happen all the time, and there can confusion between drivers as far as fault and liability is concerned.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed should you ever find yourself in a car accident, we at CarTek Collision have put together this guide to ensure that Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, Pasadena and Glendale drivers are informed as to who is liable in the case of any motor vehicle incident.

Negligence

When a driver is considered negligent, it means that said driver failed to adhere to traffic laws due to the driver not paying attention. It is not a complete disregard for the rules; it is more of a genuine mistake, an instance of where the driver should have known better and should have been paying attention. Circumstances include failing to look out and stop for pedestrians, running red lights, failing to yield, slight speeding, or failing to turn on your headlights when appropriate, like during rainy weather. Though they may seem minor, these are all things we know we are not supposed to do, and the minor things can easily add up and result in a car accident.

If you fail to follow the rules, even if done so inadvertently because you’re distracted, you are still the one who is liable for the accident due to negligence.

Recklessness

Recklessness differs from negligence in that recklessness is a clear display of the driver knowing better but dismissing the regulations regardless, perhaps because they are rushing or simply do not care about the consequences. Examples of recklessness include excessive speeding, aggressive driving, changing lanes abruptly or too close to other vehicles, passing in places where prohibited, texting and driving, or driving while intoxicated.

If you are driving recklessly, you are driving without any respect for the rules of the road, let alone for yourself or other drivers.

When Negligence Meets Recklessness

While liability due to negligence or recklessness by itself seems pretty straightforward, not every situation can be clearly defined. There can be times when, following a motor vehicle incident, you are caught in an upsetting gray area of both negligence and recklessness.

For instance, let’s say that you are driving on the interstate and a reckless driver decides to quickly cross over four lanes without assessing his surroundings. Although you might have put a safe distance between you and the reckless driver, you still ended up too close behind another car that brakes suddenly to also avoid the reckless driver, resulting in a fender bender.

Despite specifically being cautious against the reckless driver, if you rear end the car in front of you, you are the one held accountable. One of the first things we all learn about car accidents is that, in a rear-end collision, it is always the fault of the driver behind — even if a completely different driver was driving recklessly at the time. In this case, you are liable not because of recklessness but negligence: you proactively avoided the reckless driver but failed to keep a safe distance away from the car in front of you.

Intentionality

There is no doubt that if you intentionally cause an accident, on the road or with another driver, you are at fault for the occurrence and you must accept culpability. Blatant liability cases include driving your car deliberately into another vehicle, a person or group of people, or onto private property.

Strict Liability

Strict liability is when you are held responsible for a motor vehicle accident even if it was not necessarily your fault. If your vehicle is defective or malfunctioning for whatever reason, or you are transporting any sort of hazardous materials or chemicals, you still must answer for the incident per strict liability regulations.

Safety First

Now you know the circumstances in which you may or may not be held liable for a car accident. From this information, remember that the most important thing is to respect the rules of the road so that you and everyone else around you can safely drive home.