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Negligent drivers aren’t the only reason for Montana crashes

Some Gallatin County drivers see a serious traffic accident and jump to conclusions about its cause. Law enforcement authorities, insurance investigators and lawyers' jobs would be a lot easier if fault was established quickly after auto accidents.

It's safe to say there are reasons for every Montana accident, whether or not a driver can be charged criminally or held liable for damages. The answers to "Who's at fault?" sometimes are outside the wreckage in a blood alcohol test, car design or part of a poor government decision. Let's be armchair investigators and assume a driver is to blame.

In accident liability claims, the goal is to show a civil court what the defendant did or didn't do was intentional, reckless or negligent. A plaintiff's duty is to draw a clear line between a defendant's negligence or misconduct during an accident and a victim's crash-related physical injuries and other losses.

Carelessness is not a conscious act, but it does breach a duty of care that all Montana drivers owe to one another. You, as the driver of a potentially dangerous vehicle, are responsible for taking "reasonable care" of others on the road. Some drivers don't just break this covenant to protect others – they shatter it by performing life-threatening acts like reckless or drunk driving, which takes someone's life in the U.S. every half hour.

Negligence is possible, even when a driver is not at fault. Think about the bar that continued to supply drinks to an intoxicated patron; consider an automotive design defect that caused a complete loss of power and left a driver helpless. Even governments can ignore safety by building roads with bad designs and ignoring maintenance.

Quick assessments aren't as good as thorough ones when it comes to investigations of car accidents. This is never truer than in a personal injury or wrongful death case when plaintiffs' losses are staggering.

Source: Find Law, "Car Accident Basics" Aug. 12, 2014

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