Can You Sue Someone for Driving Dangerously in Massachusetts?
We have all been there – nearly involved in an auto accident because another driver was driving dangerously or ignoring posted traffic regulations. Whether it was another driver swerving dangerously close to your car without signaling or someone flying through a stop sign without slowing down, you might experience a sense of anger, fear, relief, or a combination of the three. Outside of cursing them under your breath, you might wonder if you have any legal recourse against a dangerous driver. Unfortunately, you are not able to sue a dangerous driver unless they caused you quantifiable harm.
A personal injury lawsuit is typically based on negligence. While negligence is often defined as carelessness, legally, it has a different definition. You might describe a dangerous driver as reckless, but their conduct only meets the first two elements of legal negligence if they did not cause an accident or an injury.
At the Law Offices of John J. Sheehan, our team of Boston personal injury lawyers is committed to holding negligent parties accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, just driving dangerously is not punishable in a civil court. While the driver might receive a citation, a fine, or points on their license, they are not subject to a personal injury lawsuit. However, if you were injured in a car crash, you should call (617) 925-6407 immediately to schedule a free appointment.
Understand Legal Negligence and Dangerous Driving in Massachusetts
While dangerous driving could put you and your family at risk, it is not necessarily grounds for a personal injury claim in Massachusetts. To hold someone liable in a personal injury lawsuit, you need to prove that their conduct was negligent. Dangerous driving, while reckless, does not meet the four requirements to reach legal negligence by itself.
Every Driver Has a Duty of Care
If you get behind the wheel in Massachusetts, you owe other motorists and pedestrians a duty of care. The first element required to prove legal negligence is demonstrating that the potential defendant owed you a duty of care. A duty of care is the legal obligation another party has not to harm another. The duty is typically based on the relationship between the parties. For example, a store owner has an obligation to their customers that the store is free of known hazards that could cause harm.
Drivers in Massachusetts have an obligation not to harm other motorists and pedestrians. More specifically, this duty entails obeying traffic laws, maintaining your vehicle, and refraining from behavior that puts others at risk, such as texting or drinking.
Dangerous Driving is a Breach of the Duty of Care
The second element in a negligence claim is proving that there was a breach, or violation, of the legal duty of care. When proving this element of negligence to a court, our Boston personal injury lawyers will have to demonstrate that a defendant’s actions deviated from what a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances.
Does dangerous driving constitute a breach of a driver’s duty of care? In most cases, it does. Any violation of a traffic law is usually evidence that a breach of duty occurred. Conduct such as speeding, reckless lane changes, and tailgating all constitute a breach of duty. A reasonable and prudent person would understand that reckless and dangerous driving is likely to cause an accident. Foreseeability is another important aspect in determining legal negligence.
Dangerous Driving and Causation
Causation is the critical component in this discussion. To establish legal negligence, our Massachusetts car accident lawyer must prove that the defendant’s breach caused your accident and injury. For example, tailgating is a breach of the duty of care. If tailgating resulted in a rear-end collision and an injury, causation exists. However, if someone is tailgating and does not cause an accident, then the journey to establish negligence ends at this point.
However, it is possible to hold a dangerous driver accountable without them coming into physical contact with your vehicle. For example, a drunk driver could cut off a large commercial truck, causing the truck driver to shift lanes to avoid an accident. If the truck driver collides with your vehicle, it could be possible to hold the dangerous driver liable for the accident and your injuries. In fact, it is not uncommon for a reckless driver to cause an accident without crashing themselves. This does present a challenge to our Somerville personal injury attorneys, as the parties in a personal injury lawsuit are usually those involved in the physical crash. Nonetheless, if it is foreseeable that cutting off a truck or ignoring a stop is liable to cause an accident, the dangerous driver could be held accountable.
The Final Element in a Negligence – Damages
While it might seem obvious, it is important to note that you must have suffered an injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. Damages is the legal term that represents the harm you suffered in financial terms. For example, medical bills and lost wages are easily quantifiable damages. However, our Boston personal injury lawyers will also calculate a dollar amount for your pain and suffering. Unfortunately, when an accident is caused by dangerous driving, there are likely to be injuries, many severe.
Contact Our Massachusetts Car Accident Attorney to Review Your Legal Options
Dangerous driving is scary and illegal. However, it is not always grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. If you were involved in an accident caused by the dangerous conduct of another driver, contact our Wakefield personal injury lawyers. The Law Office of John J. Sheehan has the attorneys, staff, and resources to fight for your rights. Call (617) 925-6407 to schedule a free appointment.