Auto Negligence: When Is Someone Considered a Negligent Driver?

News » Auto Negligence: When Is Someone Considered a Negligent Driver?

Negligent Driving in Traffic Accidents

Traffic accidents are often harmful, sometimes fatal, and can almost always be prevented.

With nearly 7 million motor vehicle crashes in the United States in just one year, it’s safe to say that driving can feel unsafe.

While this might make it sound like driving is inevitably dangerous, most crashes don’t have to happen, but often result from simple auto negligence.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows that most auto accidents are caused by human error.

Negligent driving – instances where a driver acts thoughtlessly or carelessly – is one of the most common reasons for car accidents today. With drivers being more distracted than ever, it’s a serious problem.

However, through better awareness, education, and driving practices, we can help reduce the number of vehicle accidents on U.S. roadways. Let’s take a look at auto negligence accidents and how we can stop them.

What Does “Negligence” Mean in Traffic Accidents?

The legal definition of negligence is: “Failure to exercise the degree of care expected of a person of ordinary prudence in like circumstances in protecting others from a foreseeable and unreasonable risk of harm in a particular situation.” In cases of traffic law, this means that drivers are expected to be reasonably careful to avoid injuring other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the road.

Negligent driving covers cases where a driver is not reasonably careful and injures another person as a result.

This includes instances such as speeding, not following traffic signals, and texting while driving.

Traffic negligence law includes both comparative and contributory negligence.

Comparative Negligence

”Comparative negligence” means that both parties in an accident are partially at fault.

For example, let’s say a driver rear-ends you while they’re speeding, but it’s nighttime and your tail lights are burnt out.

The court could determine that you are partially at fault because of the lights and that you are responsible for 10 percent of the damages.

Contributory Negligence

”Contributory negligence” is a rare case decision that is banned in most states.

Under contributory auto negligence, a victim has no chance to receive compensation for their injuries if they are ruled to be in any way at fault in the accident.

In the case above, if the speeding vehicle struck you, you would not receive compensation any damages.

Types of Driver Negligence

Driver negligence cases are some of the most common causes of car accidents in the United States.

This includes both intentional and unintentional driver decisions.

These are the four types of driver negligence:

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is the number one cause of car accidents in the United States.

This includes any case where a driver is distracted by something and not paying attention to the road.

Texting-while-driving and eating-while-driving are common examples.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving defines situations where drivers carelessly handle their vehicles and/or drive in an overly aggressive manner.

For example, a case of someone swerving back and forth between lanes is considered reckless driving.

Disobeying Traffic Laws

Common legal cases for driver negligence are made when a driver ignores traffic laws.

This includes things like rolling stop signs, driving above posted speed limits, and not stopping at red lights.

Driver negligence covers instances where drivers both intentionally or accidentally disobey traffic laws.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is extremely dangerous.

It’s estimated that every day, 28 people in the United States are killed in drunk driving accidents.

While many people think of DUIs when someone operates a motor vehicle under the effects of having consumed liquor, driving under the influence can also cover cases of abusing prescription drugs; for example, the famous Tiger Woods DUI case.

Car accidents or truck accidents can involve several different factors that could contribute to auto negligence.

Road traffic accident negligence can also be a factor in cases involving public transportation and rideshare services.

While auto negligence has a direct legal definition, it’s not always clear-cut how it is proven in court.

How Is Negligence Proven?

When are you considered a negligent driver? According to the courts, it’s multifaceted.

To claim auto negligence in court and hold a party liable for injury, four elements must be proven in the civil litigation process:

Legal Duty to Act Reasonably and Carefully

This means proving that the liable party had a legally bound duty to others that he or she failed to follow.

Drivers have a reasonable duty to drive with care and caution while following all rules of the road.

This is to protect other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians.

The term “reasonable” is usually determined as what a reasonable, careful person would do, and it can sometimes be a point of contention in car accident lawsuits.

Breach of Legal Duty

Proving breach of duty means proving that the defendant breached a legal obligation they had to other involved parties and that the breach resulted in injuries or harm to others.

Drivers must exercise ordinary care to avoid harming others on the road.

Breaches could include driving at unsafe speeds, failing to be alert, not keeping control of their car, or failing to maintain brakes and other necessary car equipment.

Actual Losses or Damages

The victim or injured party must prove that actual loss occurred due to the other party’s action.

This can include car repair costs, injuries, and other compensatory and punitive damages to person or property.

Plaintiffs are responsible to calculate and show the exact costs and losses associated with the accident.

A Cause-Effect Relationship Between Breach of Duty and the Losses/ Damages

There must be a clear cause-effect relationship between the liable party’s breach of duty and the damages and/or losses the other parties incurred.

For example, if a driver rear-ends someone at a stoplight because they failed to stop, the plaintiff will likely be able to prove the driver is liable.

A majority of car accident lawsuits revolve around causation.

If it is not clear that the defendant’s actions caused the plaintiff’s damages, it is not likely that auto negligence can be proven.

Proving all four of these elements can be difficult.

Defendants will often make cases that their actions did not lead to the plaintiffs’ injuries, or that they did not breach reasonable legal duty.

When auto negligence is proven, the guilty party is usually required to pay the costs of the injured party’s damages.

This could also result in a driver’s license suspension, and for defendants with a driving record with repeat traffic violations, having driving privileges revoked by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

How to Handle Driving Negligence Claims

Many car accident victims bring driver negligence claims to court or their insurance companies in hopes of receiving compensation for their losses, injuries, and other damages.

While this can bring justice, it can also mean a difficult legal process for everyone involved.

Both working to prove auto negligence claims and fighting against them require due diligence and an understanding of the legal process.

It is vital to handle such claims in a proper manner, particularly if a traffic accident involves serious injury or wrongful death.

Even minor cases, such as a simple fender bender, can have potentially major financial consequences.

Plaintiffs and defendants preparing for negligent driving claims should contact an injury lawyer for a full understanding of their legal options.

How to Claim Driver Negligence

Claiming, and proving, another driver’s negligence is a key step for car accident victims in earning fair compensation for their damages and suffering.

Victims looking to make auto negligence claims against other drivers should first meet with a personal injury lawyer or car accident attorney to develop a well-structured liability argument.

They can help prove liability and determine if the settlement can be made out-of-court.

To help make the case stronger, victims should gather evidence that supports their auto negligence claims.

This includes photos from the scene, personal information of all parties involved, incident reports, medical bills, and any other relevant evidence.

The better documented the accident, the more likely the victim will be able to prove auto negligence.

Car Accident Defenses to Disprove Auto Negligence

Fighting negligence claims requires a strong understanding of liability and the capacity to present a well-structured, truthful legal argument.

Facing negligence in traffic accident lawsuits can have detrimental consequences, so it’s important that defendants work with an experienced legal professional.

They can help to disprove the four required elements [legal duty, breach, losses/damages, and causation] mentioned earlier.

There are also measures defendants can take to limit liabilities.

This includes practicing safe driving and keeping up with their vehicle maintenance.

As mentioned earlier, never admit fault at the scene of an accident.

Being prepared with the right supplies and taking quick action to mitigate injuries or other damages might also help to disprove negligence.

Ending Negligent Driving

Negligent driving is a serious problem that can have serious consequences for everyone on the road.

Traffic accidents create stressful situations both behind the wheel and in the courtroom.

While accidents are common, there are steps drivers can take to reduce their risks.

Through safe driving awareness, we can help prevent accidents and keep U.S. roadways safe.

Contributory Negligence.Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute,

Driving under the Influence.Driving under the Influence – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics,

Facts + Statistics: Highway Safety.” III,

Find Out What Are The Leading Causes For Most Car Accidents | Markets Insider.Business Insider, Business Insider,

Negligence.Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster,


Related Posts

Duty of Care & How Breach of Duty Can Lead to a Lawsuit

January 26, 2021
Learn More

January 26, 2021

Duty of Care & How Breach of Duty Can Lead to a Lawsuit

Fender Bender: What to Do After a Minor Car Accident

September 15, 2020
Learn More

September 15, 2020

Fender Bender: What to Do After a Minor Car Accident

What Should You Keep in Your Car in Case of a Traffic Accident?

August 4, 2020
Learn More

August 4, 2020

What Should You Keep in Your Car in Case of a Traffic Accident?

Most Common Car Accident Injuries & How to Avoid Them

December 18, 2019
Learn More

December 18, 2019

Most Common Car Accident Injuries & How to Avoid Them

The Five Most Common Types of Vehicle Accidents in the U.S.

October 22, 2019
Learn More

October 22, 2019

The Five Most Common Types of Vehicle Accidents in the U.S.

Civil Lawsuit – The Civil Litigation Process Explained In Steps

January 30, 2018
Learn More

January 30, 2018

Civil Lawsuit – The Civil Litigation Process Explained In Steps


Tom Lewis

TorHoerman Law was responsible for handling a medical case for our family. I was extremely impressed with their professionalism and ability to react quickly. They also did a nice job keeping us updated with the case throughout the process. This was the first time experiencing a situation like this and Tor Hoerman law did an excellent job from start to finish.

Jordan Terry

TorHoerman Law is an extraordinary law firm – a firm that truly makes the client’s best interests the primary concern. Their team of personal injury lawyers are experienced, personable, and well versed in a range of litigation areas. They are supported by a dedicated team of staff that are as equally friendly and helpful. I would recommend TorHoerman Law for any personal injury litigation needs.

Dave Woodley

All of my questions were answered quickly and in a way I could understand. Steve and the entire staff were friendly and professional.

Jordan Butler

I highly recommend this law firm! The attorneys and staff at THL worked hard, communicated every step of the process, kept me well informed at all times, and exceeded all expectations! The staff is kind, considerate, professional, and very experienced. Look no further, call now!

Maddy Moeller

Top-notch, hardworking attorneys!

Karen Hersman

A wonderful and professional legal team. They helped me when I needed expert legal representation! Thank you TorHoerman Law!

Angel Truesdale

They contacted me the next day. Very nice people!

Paul Graegin

The firm went above and beyond. Thank you for everything.

Carie Terry

The attorneys at THL were extremely helpful with the legal aspects of setting up my small business.