Godwin, Morris, Laurenzi & Bloomfield, P.C.

Right-of-way is an important liability factor in car accidents

The basic negligence rules governing vehicular accidents are generally the same in all jurisdictions. Certain accidents that fall within the heart of a negligence principle will almost invariably be determined to have the same liability attributions in each similar accident. Conversely, when there are discrepancies in the details of what happened, issues of liability may arise that are not so easy to resolve. With respect to car accidents, one of the basic negligence principles in Tennessee and elsewhere is that the operator of a vehicle that enters into the right-of-way of another vehicle is at fault.

Thus, when a car pulls out of a side road or a driveway into the main highway, the driver cannot do so when an oncoming car on the main road is traveling nearby with the right-of-way. When that happens, there are few ways in which the car driver with the right-of-way will be said to be at fault. A vehicle must carefully look both ways, several times if necessary, before deciding it is safe to pull onto the main roadway.

The Jackson police are investigating a fatal accident where the foregoing principle appears to be at play. Vann Drive in Jackson is a busy roadway. On a recent evening, a husband and wife were killed when their car pulled onto Vann Drive from a movie theater driveway.

They were T-boned by a vehicle operated by an 18-year-old girl traveling with the right-of-way on Vann Drive. It is unknown what speed she was driving and that remains a point of inquiry. The police are indicating a full accident reconstruction will be made to determine her speed and whether she will face any charges. 

In most car accidents in Tennessee and elsewhere, the speed of the car with the right-of-way will not be a substantial factor in causing the accident when another car enters its path from a side road or driveway. It is unlikely that the estate for the decedent couple will have a claim under these circumstances, barring the revelation of unusual facts. The young girl, however, was hospitalized and, as the party with the right of way, she may be in a better liability position to make a successful claim for compensation of her own damages.

Source: wbbjtv.com, "Police: Reconstructing fatal crash may take days", Dan Lampariello, July 31, 2015

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