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Accidents Between Different Kinds of Vehicles: Who Is Liable?

In any traffic accident, it can be difficult to determine fault. There are so many details and variables at play. Even skilled attorneys can find it hard to untangle the facts.

This complexity grows when an accident involves different types of vehicles. For instance, consider an accident between a bicycle and a car. In most cases, the bike rider is seriously hurt. This fact causes many to believe that the driver is responsible and must pay for all related damages.

What if, however, that bike rider pulled out in front of the driver? In that situation, it would be unfair to hold the driver accountable for the biker’s injuries.

Regardless of the vehicles involved, all traffic laws apply, and any at-fault party can be held liable for a wreck.

The Rules Never Change

Even a pedestrian who has been hit by a car can be at-fault. Traffic laws are designed to protect you in two ways. First, they help keep you unharmed. Next, they keep you from unnecessarily legal liability.

In short, you shouldn’t be held liable for hitting a pedestrian who runs across the street right as you turn. The injuries they suffer can be tragic and horrific, but the harsh reality is this: This accident wasn’t your fault.

All travelers have a specific set of rules they must obey. Their level of injury is irrelevant to their degree of fault.

Negligence Is the Key

Liability in an accident between any two vehicles depends on the negligence of the parties involved. It’s best to think of negligence as what someone failed to do, rather than what they did.

For instance, a biker is illegally riding along the white lines, between cars. Suddenly, they clip someone’s side mirror and flip over. This biker was negligent in properly obeying traffic laws.

Arizona is an at-fault state. This means that the traveler who caused an accident, regardless of the mode of transport, is responsible for covering the damages. Normally, this involves going through insurance.

Comparative Negligence in Arizona

Even as an at-fault state, Arizona acknowledges that multiple parties can be responsible for a wreck. Moreover, it considers each party’s level of fault.

Imagine a motorcyclist is riding at night, and they run a four-way stop sign. They clip the front of a car, sending them high into the air, and they hit the ground hard.

The car was stopped when the biker hit it. However, its front was too far into the lane, and its lights were off. The biker certainly shouldn’t have run the sign, but he probably would have stopped if he had seen the car ahead.

When settling a case like this, a court considers each person’s degree of liability. It could determine that the biker was 90% responsible for the accident, and the driver was 10% at-fault for their improper stop and lack of lighting. According to comparative negligence, the biker would therefore owe the driver 90% of the overall damages, a figure equal to their level of responsibility.

Arizona uses the “pure” comparative negligence model. This means that even if a plaintiff is 99% responsible for an accident, they could still owe a defendant 1% of the overall damages.

If you’ve been in any kind of motor vehicle accident, our firm can help. For a free consultation, call us today at (602) 483-6114, or contact us online.

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