What Is the Scope of a Driver’s Duty of Care?

A driver may be liable for damages caused by his negligent driving. In this post, let’s discuss the nature and scope of every driver’s duty to exercise due care.

Every driver has the duty to exercise ordinary care and skill in the operation of their motor vehicle. It is the degree of care that the law expects from a reasonably prudent man under the same circumstances.

So what does this entail? In the exercise of due care, the driver must avoid collisions with other vehicles. He needs to stop before he hits pedestrians or objects. The driver also needs to be mindful of the traffic laws. Lastly, he needs to be aware of any eventuality that would be reasonably anticipated by a prudent driver under the same situation. Failure to use due care as may be appropriate under the circumstances may constitute negligence.

For the offended party to recover compensation for damages caused by the erring driver, three elements must exist:

  • There exists a legal duty on the part of the erring driver to exercise due care
  • The erring driver failed to perform that legal duty
  • The erring driver’s breach of this duty is the proximate cause of the offended party’s injury

So what is this duty of care that every driver must observe? Let’s take a look into the principles of the duty of care concerning negligence in operating motor vehicles.

Duty to Look

Every driver must be on the lookout for people and vehicles on the road. Failure to watch out for pedestrians or cars may breach that duty of care and support a claim for negligence.

This also includes negligent inattentiveness. Even if the driver was looking in the direction of an object but wasn’t paying attention to it, he could still be liable. Instances of negligent inattentiveness include misjudging the oncoming vehicle’s speed or distance of the pedestrian.

In addition, a driver may also be liable if visibility is poor, but was driving too fast under existing road conditions. He didn’t exercise due care as he was speeding, given the level of visibility.

Duty to Maintain Vehicle in a Safe Operating Condition

Every driver is responsible for maintaining his car in a safe operating condition. If he fails in this duty, he may be deemed negligent.

Duty to Stop and Help Injured Persons

The law requires every driver involved in an accident to stop immediately. He has to identify himself and provide his personal contact information to the other driver. He also needs to render reasonable assistance to any injured person on the scene of the accident. Failure to stop and help can be seen as consciousness of his responsibility for the accident.

No Duty to Foresee the Negligence of Others

However, no driver has the duty to anticipate the negligence of other drivers or pedestrians. While defensive driving is ideal, every driver has the right to expect that other people will obey the law and perform their respective duties.

This is often an issue in intersections where drivers attempt to pinpoint who was at fault. In these cases, the courts often favor the careful driver who approached the intersection first. Accordingly, such a driver has the right to expect that the other drivers will yield the right-of-way to him.

On the other hand, a driver must yield to another incoming driver approaching the intersection at high speed. This rule applies even if he was the first to approach the junction. By not slowing down, it is apparent the fast-approaching driver has no intention to stop or yield to the driver who approached the intersection first.

Rule on Imminent Peril

When confronted with a sudden and expected peril, a driver is not expected to use the same standard of care that an ordinarily prudent person would use under similar conditions. Given the element of surprise, the driver is not afforded the opportunity to deliberate on what’s the best course of action to take to avoid the danger.

How I Can Help You

I help clients secure financial compensation for their injuries. Specifically, I help injured clients recover compensation from insurance companies, negligent drivers, and other liable parties.

The first step to financial recovery is a free consultation. Call my office at (916) 270-6880 Monday – Saturday from 8 AM to 6 PM to learn more about your personal injury rights and damages.

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