Personal harm claims brought by one spouse against the other during a marriage are typically not allowed. The idea of interspousal immunity prohibits such actions, which are known as interspousal torts.
However, most states have made exceptions to this rule for cases involving reckless driving of a motor vehicle (auto accidents). To establish a legitimate negligence claim, you must demonstrate the classic elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages.
Negligence: What Is It?
Simply put, negligence is the legal philosophy that enables affected parties to receive compensation for other people’s negligence. If someone behaved irresponsibly in light of the circumstances, that individual is said to have been negligent.
Many key elements must be proven for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence to result in a damages award. Remembering that a defense could reduce how much the defending party must pay, even when all factors are demonstrated, and negligence is proven.
There are various components to proving negligence in a car accident:
- Duty: Duty is the obligation one person has toward another. In general, those going about their daily business bear a duty of “reasonable care.” Any regular person who is reasonably prudent would exercise this amount of caution in the same circumstance. This might happen, for instance, if someone is driving in bad weather. By obeying the speed limit or taking other preventative actions, they would be using reasonable care.
- Alternatively, a motorist would not be reasonable if they were exceeding the speed limit or did not take any other preventive steps that were appropriate given the circumstances. Breach: A breach happens when someone fails to act with the degree of care that is needed by their responsibility. Continuing the previous illustration, the driver who exceeded the posted speed limit did so in bad weather, violating their responsibility to exercise reasonable care. This is a violation of duty because it puts the safety of other motorists;
- Causation: The injury must have been caused by the breach of duty. Although the legal standard for determining causation is far more complicated than that, the fundamental standard is that the injury would not have happened but for the activities of one party. In the current illustration, if the driver driving in bad weather did not have enough time to stop before colliding with another vehicle, they violated their responsibility to exercise reasonable care. The other car was then hurt as a result of this breach. The driver of the second automobile would not have been hurt if it weren’t for the speeding party; and
- Damages: In general, there must have been some quantifiable harm. The precise nature of the harm can vary, but it generally includes lost wages, emotional anguish, and property damage.
In conclusion, negligence is the failure to use reasonable care, which results in harm or injury to another person. Instead of focusing on a person’s direct acts, the theory of negligence emphasizes their failure to take reasonable measures.
In a Car Accident Lawsuit, What Constitutes Negligence?
Typically, a case alleging negligence in an automobile accident is founded on the legal idea that the injured person has damages for which they are entitled to compensation. Since it is uncommon for someone to cause an automobile accident intentionally, negligence does not include purposeful behavior.
It must be legally established that the other party involved in the collision was indeed at fault for a negligence-based vehicle accident lawsuit’s success. Because of this, proving negligence requires a complicated examination to ascertain if the defendant upheld their duty of safety.
Among the most prevalent instances of careless driving are, but are not limited to:
- Breaking Traffic Laws: This might include driving through stop signs or red lights without stopping, failing to yield when necessary, driving excessively fast or slowly, and halting outside the lines at intersections.
- Failure to Exercise Vigilance While Driving: This kind of carelessness refers to failing to keep up a fair level of attention or vigilance while driving so that you are ready for any unforeseen events that might occur on the road around you. Using a cell phone while driving is the most prevalent and deadly form of neglecting to be attentive behind the wheel;
- Failure to Retain Control of the Vehicle: Swerving, abrupt stops, and halting over the line at an intersection are examples of failure to maintain vehicle control.
- Failing to Use the Equipment Properly: One example of this would be failing to use the turn signal when turning the car. Two other instances include neglecting to activate warning lights or reducing high beams when appropriate. It is significant to highlight that failure to properly operate the vehicle’s equipment includes neglecting to maintain equipment function, such as having damaged brake lights.
Driving while intoxicated is not regarded as negligence due to how dangerous it is. Instead, it has a distinct set of laws. Drunk driving is generally considered a criminal offense, whereas negligence is a civil infraction. It is vital to note that both criminal and civil charges might be brought against the same defendant for the same incident.
This implies that a drunk driver may face both criminal charges for operating a vehicle while inebriated and civil lawsuits for the harm they caused while driving drunk.
Does it Matter if We Use the Same Insurance Provider or Not?
Yes. Your state may permit interspousal lawsuits if you and your spouse have different insurance companies. You should exercise caution when making such a claim because insurers have been known to include language in their insurance policies that forbid one family member from suing another from the same firm for damages.
You will still have a better chance of winning damages if you and your spouse have different carriers, even though some states have rejected such terms.
Comparative Fault: What Is It?
According to regulations governing comparative fault, both parties’ faults must be considered when determining who is to blame for an accident. This indicates that while a careless driver may have caused the collision, the other driver may also have played a role. The degree to which each driver was at fault must be assessed. An illustration of this would be if one motorist were 90% at blame and the other 10%, for example.
Another illustration of this would be if the collision occurred in a parking lot and the careless driver backed out of a spot and hit the other driver. The negligent driver should have stopped to let the other motorist pass before moving out, even though the other driver had the right of way.
However, the second vehicle was distracted by their cell phone and might have also stopped to prevent the collision, but they were not paying attention. The court could rule that in addition to the irresponsible driver, the other driver passing through the parking lot was also at fault.
In situations like this one, there are two options. The amount of the less-at-fault driver’s fault could be deducted from the compensatory damage award by the court. As an illustration, the damages would be decreased by 20% if the driver was found to be 20% at fault.
If the other motorist is found to be at fault, there may be some places where compensatory damages are not given. The amount of compensatory damages will not be eliminated but rather lowered, according to most state laws, as was already mentioned. The relative or comparative fault of each driver and the appropriate amount of compensatory damages may be determined after consulting an expert.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Sue My Spouse for Negligent Motor Vehicle Operation?
A vehicle accident lawyer with experience in personal injury cases will be able to inform you of the laws pertaining to your case and advocate on your behalf, as is the case with all actions for personal injuries.