In the vast majority of personal-injury cases arising out of a car accident, the question of whether a given driver acted negligently must be decided at trial by a jury. It cannot be decided before trial by a judge as a matter of law. But, there are exceptions. Some accidents speak so loudly to a driver’s negligence that the courts will presume the driver was negligent, and will hold the driver liable for the plaintiff’s injuries unless the driver comes forward with a non-negligent explanation for the accident. Examples of such accidents include, for example, one car rear ending another, or a car suddenly leaving the roadway and crashing into an object, or a car making a turn into the path of another car that has the right of way. When such accidents occur, the courts place the burden on the offending driver to show that he or she was not negligent. The rear-ending driver might explain, for example, that the car in front of him stopped suddenly and unexpectedly. The driver who left the roadway might explain that the car’s steering column suddenly froze preventing the driver from being able to steer or keep the car on the roadway. And the driver who made the turn into the path of a car that had the right of way might explain that the driver in the oncoming car waved him or her through. For the most part, however, the courts reject attempts to rebut the presumption of negligence in such accidents. For example, it is of no avail to a rear-ending driver that there was rain or snow on the ground, or that the driver who drove off the road “suddenly” nodded off at the wheel, or that the driver turning into the path of another didn’t see the coming car because he or she was momentarily blinded by the sun.
In cases where the driver was presumptively negligent, the plaintiff can ask the court to find the driver liable as a matter of law. This avoids the need for a trial on liability, saving the plaintiff the cost of trying that part of the case and placing the plaintiff in a very advantageous settlement position.
If you or someone close to you is injured in a vehicular accident and considering bringing a personal-injury action, it is important to consult with attorneys familiar with this area of the law, like the attorneys at [ln::firm_name].