Special issues can arise in automobile litigation that make it more difficult to pursue a car accident claim. These issues can make additional parties potentially liable for injuries and must be considered during the course of litigating a case.
Special issues arising from the accident itself include:
Hit-and-Run Accidents: When the driver who causes an accident fails to stop at the accident scene it may be difficult for the victim of the accident to later identify the at-fault driver in order to bring a lawsuit.
Car-Pedestrian Accidents: When a motor vehicle collides with a pedestrian, the pedestrian will often suffer catastrophic injury and have difficulty making claims against drivers. Often these accidents are attributed to the conduct of the pedestrian using the contributory negligence defense.
Car-Motorcycle Accidents: Motorcycle drivers are susceptible to serious injury; even in collisions that would be relatively minor had they occurred between cars. Some suggest that motorcyclists may be victims of a predisposition by juries to blame them for causing an accident, even where the driver of a car was clearly negligent.
Car-Bicycle Accidents: Bicyclists are vulnerable to serious injury when struck by cars and are also susceptible to having drivers open car doors in front of them. Some bicyclists engage in very hazardous actions, such as ignoring traffic signals or riding on the wrong side of the road, making an accident much more likely.
Bus Accidents: Bus accidents can be quite serious, given the size and mass of a typical bus, and the fact that passengers are usually unrestrained. Special issues can arise in accidents involving school buses and in the context of loading and unloading passengers.
Semi Truck / Tractor-Trailer Accidents: The drivers of “big rigs” are subject to state and federal regulation, governing how many hours a day they can drive, how much sleep they are to get each night, and the condition and maintenance of their trucks. Obviously, when a semi truck causes an accident, the consequences to any smaller vehicle and its passengers can be devastating.
After-Market Vehicle Modifications: Where a vehicle has after-market modifications, such as being raised or lowered, having powerful or tinted headlights or fog lights installed or window tinting, those modifications may affect the safety of the vehicle for its occupants. The same modifications may pose a hazard to other vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.
Accidents Caused by Road Debris: Where road debris causes an accident, whether in the form of objects or parts which have fallen off of vehicles or debris that is kicked up from the roadway and collides with another vehicle, it can often be difficult to determine who was at fault for the presence of the debris on the road. States and local jurisdictions may also limit liability.
Special issues that may affect liability include:
Governmental Immunity: States and local jurisdictions may limit an injured victim’s ability to sue when the driver of the vehicle that causes an accident is a governmental employee who is working at the time of the accident, or where the accident involves a government-owned vehicle.
Owner Liability: Where the driver of a vehicle has the owner’s permission to operate that vehicle and an accident occurs, many jurisdictions will hold the owner jointly liable for injuries caused by the driver’s negligent operation of the vehicle.
Employer Liability: Where an employee is driving a vehicle “on the job”, or as a lawyer might say “within the course and scope of employment”, the employer may be jointly liable for injuries caused by the employee’s negligent driving conduct. In addition, an argument may be made that where a driver who causes an accident is talking on a phone and the driver’s employer expects employees to handle work-related phone calls while driving, the employer may share liability for an accident caused by the employee.
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