What is the Test of Negligence in Vehicular Accidents?

Most car accident lawsuits are brought for negligence. But what does that mean, exactly? And how do you establish negligence using evidence? At Groth & Associates, we have brought many car accident claims, so we understand the law on negligence quite well. Generally, there are two tests for negligence, which we describe below.

Elements of Negligence

In Ohio, an accident victim needs to prove the following elements:

  • The defendant owed them a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached that duty.
  • The victim suffered injury as a direct and proximate result of the defendant’s breach.

The second element—whether the defendant breached the duty—is often in dispute. Put differently, we need to know whether the defendant failed to act with sufficient care while driving. There are two tests in Ohio.

The First Test: The Reasonable Person Standard

Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care under the circumstances. Reasonable care is the care that a reasonably prudent person would use in a similar situation. This is very fact specific.

Lawyers call this an “objective” standard. We need to imagine what a hypothetical reasonable person would have done in a similar situation and then compare the defendant’s actions to that standard. For example, if there is snow and sleet on the road, a reasonable person would drive slower than the speed limit. Similarly, a reasonably careful person would scan ahead for about 5 seconds to see if any car is pulling into the road. If the driver who hit you failed to do these things, then they are probably negligent.

There are many gray areas with the reasonable person standard. Sometimes, two people might disagree about what a person should have done in a similar situation, and those cases often end up in court.

The Second Test: Negligence Per Se

In some situations, you can establish the first two elements of negligence by pointing out that the defendant broke a traffic law. You don’t need to talk about a reasonable person. Instead, the violation of the law is enough. This is negligence per se.

There are many traffic rules that drivers must obey. Chapter 4511 of the Ohio Revised Code lays out most of them, such as:

  • No driving on a sidewalk unless you are trying to access a driveway.
  • Yielding the right of way to oncoming traffic in an intersection when you are making a left-hand turn.
  • No driving while using a hand-held electronic device.

When a motorist breaks one of these laws and injures you, we can say they were negligent.

Negligence per se is only one way to prove negligence. It is not required. If the driver who hit you didn’t break a traffic law, you can still sue if they acted in an objectively unreasonable manner. Let an attorney analyze how to prove negligence.

Contact Groth & Associates

We have brought personal injury claims for many injured motorists and pedestrians, and we can analyze the circumstances surrounding your accident to see if you can sue. Please call us today to get started.