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How is negligence determined in a car accident?

On Behalf of | Aug 22, 2023 | Car Accidents |

Only certain car crash scenarios render injury victims eligible to pursue a lawsuit against the party or parties responsible for that harm. In most cases, a plaintiff hoping to initiate legal proceedings will need a viable reason to claim that the other party was negligent and that this negligence directly led to the harm in question.

Some people feel so intimidated by this idea that they need to establish actionable negligence in the West Virginia civil courts that they don’t take action at all. But, those who take the time to educate themselves about negligence statutes may feel more confident about pursuing a personal injury claim to recover their financial losses after a serious collision in West Virginia.

How do plaintiffs in West Virginia effectively establish that another driver (in particular) was somehow negligent?

They prove that a traffic infraction occurred

In West Virginia, the rules for jurors hearing civil cases include instructions related to negligence as a result of prior court rulings. Any scenario in which there is proof that one party violated traffic statutes constitutes negligence for the purposes of civil litigation in West Virginia. When drivers violate state law, they ultimately engage in behaviors that compromise their safety and the safety of others on the road. Exceeding the posted speed limit, texting while driving or failing to use a turn signal are all examples of traffic infractions that will lead to a presumption of negligence during civil litigation.

What about claims of a sudden emergency?

One of the ways that a defendant responding to a civil claim arising from a collision might seek to defend themselves involves alleging that their actions were not negligent because they encountered a sudden emergency.

However, the state very strictly limits claims of sudden emergencies. Any reasonably foreseeable traffic issue that a driver could address their habits to avoid will not constitute an emergency. Inclement weather, for example, is typically not a sudden emergency, as motorists can and should reduce their operating speed to reflect changes in the weather.

If a lower speed, a more reasonable distance between vehicles in traffic or other common-sense adjustments to driving behavior would have likely prevented the crash, the defendant will not be able to avoid claims of negligence by asserting there was a sudden emergency.

Although negligence can seem like a subjective term to many individuals, West Virginia state law and court procedures are very clear about what constitutes negligence and when someone’s actions in traffic might lead to litigation. Learning more about how the West Virginia courts handle major crash claims may benefit those contemplating a lawsuit after a recent wreck.