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Does Right-of-Way Determine Fault?

When it comes to motor vehicle accidents, compliance with traffic laws will largely determine who caused the collision. Many times, a failure to yield the right-of-way will place fault on a driver involved in an accident.

That said, there are situations where a driver with the right-of-way could be responsible for an accident. In these cases, both parties could share some fault in the motor vehicle collision.

Understanding the Right-of-Way

The legal concept of the right-of-way is crucial to the entire system of driving in America. When a motorist fails to comply with the right-of-way, they could put every other motorist in the vicinity at risk of injury.

The right-of-way is a driver’s right to be in a certain space at a certain time. This right varies depending on whether a driver is on a public street, a highway, or even a parking lot. The right-of-way is often determined by law.

How the Right-of-Way Applies on the Road

For example, state statutes make it clear it is unlawful for a driver to cross over a centerline into the lane of an oncoming vehicle. The right-of-way can also be unspoken. Drivers in parking spots must recognize the right-of-way for drivers that are established in the lanes of the parking lot.

Other common situations where the right-of-way comes into play include:

  • Returning to the roadway from the shoulder
  • Merging onto a different street
  • Backing out of a parking space
  • Stop signs
  • Yield signs
  • Pedestrian crosswalks
  • Left-hand turns across traffic

Remember, right-of-way laws are about yielding to drivers or pedestrians that have priority over you. If you fail to allow those vehicles to pass, you could be responsible for any collisions that occur.

How the Right-of-Way Impacts Injury Cases

Personal injury cases revolve around negligence. If a driver wants to recover monetary compensation for their injuries, they must establish that the other party was negligent in causing or contributing to the collision.

Proving the at-fault party did not comply with the right-of-way is one way to establish negligence. Negligence is any careless, intentional, or reckless act that leads to another person’s injury. A driver that causes a collision by striking a vehicle that had the right-of-way fits the bill.

By establishing negligence, an injured driver could recover financial compensation from the person that violated the right-of-way. This compensation could cover medical bills, vehicle repair expenses, lost wages, and more. An attorney with our firm could help pursue these losses by filing a civil lawsuit or negotiating a monetary settlement.

Shared Fault in Right-of-Way Accidents

There is no doubt that the driver without the right-of-way is frequently at fault for a motor vehicle accident. However, there can be multiple factors that combine to cause a collision.

In other words, a driver with the right-of-way could bear some responsibility for an accident if they were also driving negligently at the time of the collision. For example, a driver with the right-of-way could face some degree of liability for an accident if they were speeding at the time the collision occurred.

In Texas, this situation is governed by a legal theory known as modified comparative fault, according to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 33.001. Under this statute, an injured person cannot pursue their damages if their percentage of responsibility is more than 50 percent. That means a driver with the right-of-way could not pursue a personal injury case if their negligence outweighed that of the other driver.

How Shared Fault Affects a Case

Shared fault can have a major impact on a car accident, even when the right-of-way is involved. Even if the driver injured in the accident has a percentage of fault below 50 percent, the state’s modified comparative fault rules could still impact their financial recovery.

When the court hears a personal injury lawsuit, the jury determines fault for the accident. If the plaintiff has a percentage of fault that is not above 50 percent, they could still see their recovery reduced. The jury is required by law to reduce any damage award by the plaintiff’s percentage of fault.

For example, a driver with the right-of-way that was 25 percent responsible for the accident will see their recovery reduced by that same percentage.

Talk to Us About the Right-of-Way in Your Injury Case

If you were involved in an accident where you had the right-of-way, you could be entitled to recover compensation from the other driver. While having the right-of-way is likely to benefit your case greatly, the right-of-way does not automatically determine fault.

The team at Loncar Lyon Jenkins can help you understand how right-of-way rules could impact your personal injury case. To get started pursuing the monetary compensation you need, contact our firm right away at (877) 239-4878 for your free, no-obligation consultation.

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Ted Lyon

Born in Terrell, Texas, Attorney Ted Lyon, a partner of Loncar Lyon Jenkins, attended East texas State University, now Texas A&M at Commerce, where he obtained his undergraduate degree in political science. Working as a police officer, Attorney Lyon paid his way through undergraduate school, followed by attendance at the Southern Methodist University School of Law. Learn More


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