Last week, we touched very briefly on the fact that the legal concept of negligence is often used by parties who need to be compensated for injuries incurred in a motorcycle accident. The same is true when other motor vehicles are involved in crashes as well. When people talk about a car crash having been someone’s ‘fault,’ what they generally are referring to is the fact that some individual acted negligently.

As we mentioned previously, the first element of a negligence claim is that one person had a legal duty to someone else, and that he or she ‘breached’ that duty, usually by either doing something that shouldn’t have been done, or not doing something that should have been done. Sometimes this is a specific duty, and others it is more generalized. When driving on the public roads in Washington State, everyone has a duty, for example, to abide by the rules set out that govern motor vehicles on those roadways.

Chapter 46.61 of Washington’s Revised Code provides the information regarding motorists’ duties in the state. All people who operate motor vehicles on the states roads are assumed to know these rules, and many of them were likely found on the test residents took when they got their first driver’s licenses. Not following these rules may be an indication that a driver acted negligently, and if an accident occurred, he or she may have legal liability for damage or injury caused.

For example, individuals are expected to obey traffic signals and signs while navigating the state’s roads. Failure to stop at a stop sign, or running a red light might be considered a breach of this particular duty. In some cases, negligence can also be shown by a more general ‘reasonableness’ standard. That is, even if it is not clear a specific rule was broken, if a driver acted in a way that a hypothetical, reasonable person would not have, he or she may still have been negligent, and thus potentially liable for damages caused in a car accident.