Traffic Accidents: Who is Responsible?

In the United States, individuals involved in motor vehicle accidents can be held financially liable for the consequences of an accident, including property damage, injuries to passengers and drivers, and fatalities. Because these costs can easily exceed the annual income of the average driver, most US states require drivers to carry liability insurance to cover these potential costs. However, in the event of severe injuries or fatalities, victims may seek damages in civil court, often for well in excess of the value of insurance.

Additionally, drivers who are involved in a collision frequently receive one or more traffic citations, usually directly addressing any material violations such as speeding, failure to obey a traffic control device, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In the event of a fatality, a charge of vehicular homicide is occasionally prosecuted, especially in cases involving alcohol.
Convictions for traffic violations are usually penalized with fines, and for more severe offenses, the suspension or revocation of driving privileges. Convictions for alcohol offenses generally result in the revocation or long term suspension of the driver’s license, and sometimes jail time and/or mandatory alcohol rehabilitation.

Due to increase in availability of cable news and Internet news, exposure to such legal actions has increased in recent years, specifically with coverage of cases and class action suits concerning SUV rollovers and recent incidents of sudden acceleration crashes highlighted by the 2010 Toyota Recall. Increased exposure has led to larger class action suits, and automobile owners’ ability to link their collision causes and issues to ones in other regions has spread knowledge of external causes.

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