Eighty-seven percent of drivers admit that they have engaged in at least one risky behavior in the past month.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the most common such behaviors among vehicle operators were talking on a cellphone (70 percent), speeding at least 15mph over the speed limit (48 percent), reading a text-based message (42 percent), sending a text-based message (32 percent), driving while extremely fatigued (32 percent), and driving drunk or seriously impaired (13 percent). The operators admitted to this behavior, even though a large number of respondents had a relative or friend who was injured in a car crash (33 percent) or had themselves been involved in a serious crash (20 percent).
The AAA challenged drivers to “make driving safer for all of us” by “fully focusing on the task at hand while behind the wheel.”
Behind the Numbers
As high as these numbers are, they may be even higher, because of what pollsters call the “Bradley Effect.” Named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, due to a phenomenon that occurred during his race for California governor in the 1980s, this theory basically means that when they are asked a question like “Do you smoke at least two packs of cigarettes a day?” or “Have you sent a text message while driving in the last month?”, people give the answer they think the questioner wants to hear, as opposed to an honest response.
The actual effect is hotly debated, but many observers think that the answers in these kinds of polls may be five or six points off.
First Party Liability in a Car Crash
All the above behaviors constitute a breach of duty. If this breach caused damages, the defendant would be liable to pay these damages. Broadly speaking, there are three categories of breach:
- Conditional: Many drivers fail to adjust to external conditions; for example, they might drive the same speed on wet pavement as dry pavement.
- Behavioral: These breaches occur before the drivers start their engines; intoxication and fatigue, which both affect driving in the same way, are the two biggest examples.
- Operational: Speeding, running a stop sign, and making an unsafe lane change often constitute negligence per se, which may be easier to prove in court.
If the crash involved a serious injury, the plaintiff may be entitled to both economic and noneconomic damages, as well as punitive damages, in some cases.
Third Party Liability
A third party may be liable for damages, and in many cases, the negligence of that party is irrelevant. The relationship alone is enough to establish legal responsibility. Some theories include:
- Respondeat Superior: If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was acting within the course and scope of employment at the time of the crash, the employer may be responsible for damages.
- Dram Shop: This law applies if a vendor sold alcohol to a minor who subsequently caused a car crash.
- Negligent Entrustment: Employers have a duty to properly hire, train, and supervise their employees; individuals have a duty to only loan their vehicles to responsible drivers.
Third party liability is particularly important if the tortfeasor was uninsured or underinsured, because it creates an additional source of recovery.
Partner with Experienced Lawyers
If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a car crash, reach out to a Tampa auto accident lawyer who is committed to total recovery for victims. The sooner you call, the easier it is to obtain maximum compensation.