Does failing to brake for a stopped car, and hitting it, make you automatically liable for damages? Not necessarily.
You’re driving in downtown Dallas. Someone stops abruptly in front of you. You smash into them.
It’s clear you failed to break. Insurance companies look at that as automatic responsibility.
But legally, do you have liability for the damages and injuries that happened?
Well, it depends on the reason you failed to break. And it depends partially on what the other driver did too – even in this situation.
So let’s start analyzing the factors:
- What if It Was the Manufacturer’s Fault?
Let’s say you’ve been doing everything you should to maintain your vehicle. Right before the crash, your brakes appeared to work just like they should.
It turns out the brakes failed because of a manufacturer’s error. Now, the responsibility doesn’t fall on you. Instead, it falls on the manufacturer. And you have a potential product liability claim against them.
- Driving Errors You Could Have Made
We don’t have to go into too much depth about distracted driving today. Many drivers do it.
If you were texting, e-mailing, talking on your smartphone, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, talking to the person next to you, eating, too tired, putting on makeup, or even listening to the radio, you are going to be legally liable.
You also have the responsibility to keep your car in functional condition. If you negligently avoided repairing a brake problem, you can also be held liable.
- Driving Errors the Other Party Could Have Made
The reason the other driver stopped could put them partially at fault too. For example, if they were drunk, high, or driving distracted in another way.
It’s common for car accidents to be caused by the negligence of both drivers. You might be in a situation where both you and the other driver run a red light, and you fail to break to avoid an accident.
When there’s “comparative fault,” the kind where both parties share fault, you will not recover compensation if you are found to have 50.1% fault or more. Even if liability is assessed 50/50 you can recover damages – although they would be reduced 50% (your percentage of fault).