In our last blog post about car accidents, we looked at whether injured passengers could hold their own driver liable for their losses. The specific crash that we discussed, though, was a single-vehicle accident. That raised an important issue in personal injury law: In single-vehicle accidents, is the driver of that vehicle always responsible for the crash?
The answer is no.
Aside from the Driver, Who Else Can Be Responsible?
Most of the time, the driver of the vehicle will be responsible for a single-vehicle accident. This is generally because the driver was distracted, made a poor decision, or was just negligent and caused the crash. However, the driver is not automatically at fault and is not responsible 100 percent of the time.
Five other parties that can change liability for a single-vehicle accident are:
- The company responsible for a defective car part
- The entity that negligently designed or built the roadway
- A wild animal
- A domestic animal
- Another driver
Makers of Defective Car Parts
In some cases, car accidents happen because something in the vehicle breaks. When the car part breaks because it was negligently designed, manufactured, or marketed, then the party responsible for that aspect of its production can be held liable in a product liability claim.
We have seen this several times in the St. Joseph area in the past few years. In early 2017, we covered two such accidents, one where a pickup truck’s brakes failed and caused a truck accident, and another where a tractor-trailer’s brakes failed and caused a single-vehicle wreck.
These are not isolated incidents, though. Many major automakers have faced, or are currently facing, class action lawsuits for defective car parts. Nissan, for example, is facing a big class action for injuries and wrongful deaths caused by its defective braking system.
Negligent Road Designers
In some rare cases, the design or construction of the road can be the cause of a car accident. This can happen if, for example, construction crews forgot to install a road drainage system, leading to deep puddles and ice in the winter, or if the road is designed with lots of turns and becomes notorious for accidents.
In fact, the City of St. Joseph recently was sued for negligent road design in a fatal car crash. The road had been newly paved and did not have the lines painted on it, yet. More importantly, though, the drop off at the edge of the pavement was nine inches – 4.5 times the maximum allowable drop off. This caused the vehicle to flip after the driver veered off the side of the road and tried to get back on.
Animals can also cause a single-vehicle accident if they run out into the road and force the driver to take evasive maneuvers.
If the animal was a domestic one, like a dog or a cat, the owner of the pet can often be held liable. They generally have a legal duty to keep the pet safe and under control and to keep it from running free.
When the animal was a wild one, like a deer, it is generally considered a no-fault accident. Your car insurance company should cover your losses. This is especially important to know now, as November is a common time for deer accidents in Missouri.
Finally, other drivers can cause a single-vehicle car crash if they run you off the road. For example, a distracted driver can veer over the median and make you react by crashing to the side of the road to avoid them.
In these cases, the other driver will generally flee the scene, leaving your own car insurance company to cover the damage.
Car Accident Lawyers at the Smith Law Office Serve St. Joseph, Missouri
The personal injury and car accident lawyers at the Smith Law Office serve accident victims in St. Joseph, Springfield, Kansas City, and the rest of western Missouri. Call them at (816) 875-9373 or contact them online to get effective legal representation to recover the compensation you deserve.