In our 25+ years of practicing personal injury law, we’ve seen a lot of accidents that didn’t have to happen – and ways they could’ve been prevented.
People sometimes use the word accident to mean an unavoidable mishap. Something no one could have foreseen or prevented.
But the truth is that many – if not most – accidents are avoidable. They didn’t have to happen. There was a clear cause for why things went wrong, why someone got hurt – and that cause, often, is negligence.
Accidents and Negligence
When our New Jersey and Pennsylvania accident injury lawyers take on a case, we’re looking for evidence of negligence.
You see, every one of us has an obligation to act with reasonable caution to protect others around us.
- When we get behind the wheel of a car, we must follow traffic safety laws – for our own well-being as well as that of others sharing the road with us.
- When we own a property, we need to keep it clear of safety hazards that could hurt a guest on the premises.
- If we invite customers or clients to visit a commercial property for business purposes, we need to make sure that property is safe for them to visit.
Not meeting this obligation – by taking actions that are careless or even reckless – makes us negligent. And when these actions cause an accident, we are liable – legally at fault – for what’s happened.
Why Do Accidents Happen?
Few accidents just happen. Most occur because someone was negligent – and negligence can take many forms.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Typically, a collision involving a car, truck, bus, or other type of motor vehicle occurs because of a mistake one or more drivers made. Often, these mistakes include breaking traffic laws.
Some accidents result from speeding or tailgating. Sometimes a driver fails to observe the right of way, blowing through a stop sign or a red traffic light or turning in front of an oncoming vehicle. Motorists who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol are too impaired to judge things like the space between vehicles, the placement of lanes of travel, and their own reaction time.
Road and weather conditions, like ice and snow, can contribute to accidents. But drivers have a legal responsibility to observe the dangers these conditions pose and take actions to keep the vehicle under control. Motorists driving on wet or icy roads should slow down to compensate for the road conditions – and those who don’t may be liable for any accidents they cause.
At times, a motor vehicle accident isn’t the driver’s fault. Instead, it may be the fault of the vehicle’s manufacturer. In recent years, high-profile recalls like GM’s faulty ignition switch recall have proven that a defective part in a car can actually cause an accident.
These cases are known as products liability claims – claims against the product’s manufacturer, rather than a driver. And while they’re difficult cases, they’re not impossible to win, if you have the right help on your side.
Slip and Falls
A number of different conditions can cause slip and falls, from wet floors and icy sidewalks to crumbling staircases and broken curbs. What these safety hazards have in common is that preventing or eliminating them is the property owner’s responsibility.
If you fell, particularly on a commercial property, the owner might try to blame you. But saying you “should’ve watched where you were going” doesn’t excuse the business from its legal obligations to keep the premises safe for its patrons. Allowing a safety hazard like this to exist on the property is negligence.
Dogs don’t have legal responsibilities themselves, but their human owners do. A person who chooses to own a dog is also accepting legal responsibility for any harm that dog causes. If the dog has the potential to bite – which even dogs without a history of aggression do – then this person is responsible for keeping the dog out of situations where it could bite an unsuspecting victim.
Often, dog bites happen because a negligent owner allowed the animal to roam freely in an area where there were people the dog could hurt.
Your employer has an obligation to make sure your work environment is safe. Even in potentially dangerous settings, like construction sites, your employer must take steps to minimize the risk to you and your fellow employees.
A workplace accident is unique in that New Jersey workers’ compensation insurance covers damages no matter who is at fault. Even if your employer wasn’t negligent, you can still pursue a claim for compensation. You might also have a claim against someone other than your direct employer, like a third-party vendor, if they acted negligently.
Accidents involving medical care are different than your typical accident case – but the factor of negligence remains the same.
Doctors who don’t do the things they should, or who take actions that other doctors would find outrageous for the situation, commit malpractice. Sometimes the victims of these mistakes are badly hurt. Following safety protocols in hospitals and medical facilities can prevent medical mistakes, which are already far too common.
What’s the best way to avoid an accident? Avoid being negligent.
Could Your Accident Have Been Prevented?
What if the driver who hit you had been following traffic laws to the letter? What if the owner of a property had proactively blocked off or repaired a safety hazard, instead of allowing it to linger out in the open where you stumbled upon it?
Could you have avoided ever getting hurt in the first place?
If you think your accident resulted from someone else’s negligent behavior, you have the right to pursue a claim for money damages. The negligent property owner, doctor, or driver chose to put you at risk through their careless actions. Now, they need to face the consequences.
For help finding out whether your accident was avoidable – and what you can do about it – speak with an accident injury attorney.