Several factors are considered when determining liability in auto accidents, not all of which are readily obvious. Massachusetts vehicle laws often tip the scales on who should assume responsibility for causing an accident and for payments involving property and bodily injuries. Motor vehicle statutory laws, however, do not always conform to the public’s perception of the common law aspect of liability. Common law recognizes four levels of fault: negligence, recklessness or wanton conduct, intentional misconduct and strict liability.
Determining who is at fault is essential when determining liability for insurance payouts. In some cases, the burden of proof is clear cut, such as when a driver runs a top sign or causes an accident while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When factors combine to result in an accident, assignment of liability is less clear. Sometimes multiple parties are at fault, which can occur in multiple vehicle accidents. When this occurs, determining who is at fault can result in different levels, with each driver only responsible for damages deemed appropriate for his or her role in the mishap.
Liability in auto accidents is different than the common law notion of fault because insurance companies have pushed state legislatures to base liability more on statutes in order to make it easier to challenge fault when more than one driver has violated traffic laws. Insurance companies commonly use the term “tortfeasor” to denote when more than one driver fits the common law conception of fault. This concept is particularly effective when one driver does not have automobile insurance, which is required in every state. The driver without insurance may not be able to collect for damages even when the other driver is negligent.
Fault is generally assigned by applying the concept of “but for,” which asks the question if the incident would have happened but for the actions of a specific individual or individuals.
If you have been involved in an auto accident and believe you have a good case for proving the fault of the other driver, contact us for an evaluation of your case. Goldberg & Oriel attorneys may be able to help you secure the payments you deserve