Driver Duty

Drivers have a duty to operate their motor vehicles in a safe manner. If they breach that duty they will be liable for property damage, economic damages, and bodily injury actually caused or “proximately caused” by their negligence. This means that not only could you be liable for the damage caused in the accident, but any injuries subsequent to the accident while awaiting treatment or assistance.

So, what does it mean to act negligently when driving a car?

In order to not be driving in a negligent manner, one must act in a manner that shows an awareness of the people around them. It is important to drive in a manner that does not put others around you in danger. This does not necessarily mean you need to be astutely aware of what every other car on the road is doing, to ensure you avoid hitting them, but instead, this is usually measured by determining if the way you are driving your car would conform with the behavior of another reasonable and prudent person in similar circumstances. For example, if you are driving on the highway and there is a speed limit, it would be reasonable to think most people would follow the speed limit, and that exceeding this speed limit is negligent behavior. The party (or parties) who acted negligently are responsible for the damages suffered by the innocent driver.

However, there is an exception to this usual standard of care, and that is the emergency doctrine. This doctrine lowers the standard of care one must take in an emergency situation, where there are unexpected circumstances that present themselves in a sudden way. The reason for this exception is that when a situation occurs quickly and without warning, it is likely that the driver will not have ample time to think and react as they normally would and therefore they are held to a lower duty of care. For example, if a child were to suddenly run into the road in front of you, it may be reasonable for you to swerve to avoid the child without looking around to make sure you would not hit anything. Where as, if there was no child in front of you, you would be expected to look around your car using your mirrors before changing lanes.

In the end, you have a duty to drive your car safely. The safety rules that you have to follow are largely set forth in Chapter 316 of Florida Statute. Those statutes are used by police officers regularly to issue citations. The citations are not admissible in court. However, the safety rules in Chapter 316 are relevant to any trial. In fact, if we can show that the Defendant broke one of the rules in Chapter 316, that is evidence of negligence. It is not an open and shut situation. However, violation of a traffic statute is relevant evidence of negligence. If we can show by the greater weight of the evidence that the statute was broken, then we should be able to establish liability.

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