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What Is Auto Negligence?

What Is Auto Negligence

There were an estimated 6,756,000 traffic accidents and 36,096 deaths in 2019. Most of these crashes were preventable and occurred due to auto negligence. In fact, according to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), around 98% of road accidents are caused by human error.

Most people don’t realize that when operating a vehicle, a driver owes other road users a legal duty of care. That means they are legally required to operate their vehicle in a reasonably safe manner. When they fail to do this, injured victims may hold them accountable for their negligent actions.

If you believe a driver’s auto negligence led to your car wreck, it’s wise to consider speaking to an experienced lawyer to help you understand how negligence works in personal injury cases. At Nix Patterson, our legal team is ready to dive into the facts of your case and determine whether there is any form of auto negligence. 

What Is Auto Negligence?

Cornell Law School describes negligence as a “failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”

In cases of federal and state traffic laws, this means that drivers are required to be reasonably careful and cautious while on the road to avoid harming pedestrians, passengers, and other drivers. If a driver fails to be reasonably careful and cautious, the driver is said to be “negligent.” And if the driver’s negligence harms someone else on the road, the driver can be held liable in court for the injuries and other losses that result.

All drivers operating their vehicles on highways or streets need to pay attention to other road users and obey all traffic laws. This ensures they don’t endanger the lives and well-being of other individuals.

What Legal Duties Does a Driver Have?

Some of the responsibilities that motorists on our roads have include:

  • Driving at reasonable speeds.
  • Being vigilant while on the road for road hazards, pedestrians, and other vehicles.
  • Maintaining control of their motor vehicle.
  • Not engaging in distracting behavior, such as texting.
  • Proper use and maintenance of vehicle equipment, like brakes and headlights.

What Are Some Examples of Driver Negligence?

There are many ways motorists can fail to operate their vehicles in a safe manner and be considered negligent. Negligence may occur as a result of unintentional or intentional driver decisions. Some common examples of automobile negligence include:

Distracted Driving

Around 3,000 people die every year due to crashes involving distracted driving, with around nine people dying every day. These distractions that lead to accidents fall into three categories: manual, visual, and cognitive distractions. Common forms of driving distractions include:

  • Texting while driving
  • Eating while driving
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming or putting on makeup
  • Changing the song, channel, or playlist
  • Accessing GPS applications

Driving Under the Influence

Every day, roughly 32 people die due to alcohol-impaired driving crashes, with approximately 11,654 people losing their lives in 2020. 

The federal limit to legally operate motor vehicles is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes a stricter 0.04% BAC limit for commercial motor vehicles like commercial trucks.

Fatigued Driving

Every year, roughly 100,000 drowsy driving crashes are reported, with around 800 fatalities and around 50,000 injuries. Fatigued driving is dangerous since it affects reaction times and awareness. You are three times more likely to cause a car accident if you are drowsy.


Driving too fast on the road makes it harder to control a vehicle, risking catastrophic injuries. Speeding also requires more distance for a vehicle to stop, which could lead to head-on or rear-end collisions.

Other types of driver negligence include:

  • Failure to yield 
  • Tailgating
  • Aggressive driving
  • Failure to keep a vehicle in good condition
  • Failing to properly signal
  • Running a red light or stop sign

How Is Negligence Proven?

In the civil litigation process, the plaintiff (the person who files a lawsuit) bears the burden of successfully proving negligence. To do so, you should work with an experienced car accident lawyer who can help you establish the four primary elements of a negligence case:

Duty of Care

The defendant had a duty of care to protect other road users from unreasonable harm. For example, all drivers have a duty not to be distracted while driving because it is unreasonably dangerous to drive while distracted. Or, as another example, all semi-truck drivers must abide by the FMCSA’s hours of service regulations because it is dangerous for truck drivers to be fatigued from lack of sleep.

Breach of Duty

The liable party violated their duty of care. Continuing with the examples above, a driver breaches the duty not to be distracted if she is texting while driving. And, a commercial truck driver who operated his vehicles for over 11 hours after only 6  consecutive hours off duty breaches their duty of care. 


The defendant’s breach was a direct and proximate cause of injuries to the plaintiff. Here, the defendant’s breach led to the victim’s catastrophic injuries. Many people text and drive, and some get away with it without harming others. But if a driver crosses the center line and causes a head-on collision because she was texting and driving, then the causation element of a negligence case is met. 


The victim suffered losses due to the liable party’s negligent acts or failure to act. These losses included personal injuries, such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, or spinal cord injuries, as well as property damage, such as a totalled car. Damages a plaintiff may recover in a negligence lawsuit include:

  • Lost wages and benefits
  • Medical expenses for personal injuries
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses
  • Punitive damages in cases of gross negligence

Do I Need a Lawyer After My Accident?

Yes. After an accident, a personal injury lawyer can protect your rights and interests. Here’s how the attorneys at Nix Patterson can help you after a car accident:

  • Discuss your case and guide you through your options.
  • Address all your questions and concerns.
  • Investigate your case and gather evidence to prove automobile negligence.
  • Help you determine all liable parties and insurance limits.
  • Interview witnesses.
  • Consult with experts like economists, accident reconstructionists, and doctors to build a strong case.
  • Handle all negotiations with insurers and any other third parties.
  • Take your case to trial if out-of-court negotiations fail.

Are You in Need of Legal Assistance? Contact Nix Patterson Today.

At Nix Patterson, our lawyers believe that if you or your loved one has suffered injuries caused by the negligence of another driver, you shouldn’t have to bear the burden of your medical bills or any other accident-related expenses.

Our lawyers will represent you throughout the entire litigation process, giving you ample time to focus on your own health and recovery. We will also offer comprehensive legal counsel on the best options for your case.

To learn more about how we can help you with your specific case, please contact us today at 512-328-5333. Our lawyers will answer any questions you may have regarding automobile negligence. Get started now. Your consultation is free. We are here to help.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

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