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Motor Vehicle Accidents and Automatic Assumption of Fault

Morgan Hawkins, Morgan Hawkins, Legal Director, on why making a mistake should not mean automatic assumption of fault in a motor vehicle accident claim.

When it comes to the behaviour of motorists, the expression two wrongs don’t make a right is something of a misnomer.

Replicating reckless acts on the road is, of course, ill-advised but to coin another cliche there are often two sides to every story when it comes to motor vehicle accidents.

For those savvy with the rules of the road who make a mistake behind the wheel – no matter how small – it is usually a natural reaction in the event of a collision to hold up a hand and accept responsibility.

And in such circumstances, the Insurance Commission will certainly not rush to convince that individual to the contrary.

However, whether as a consequence of an overly enthusiastic start at traffic lights or a loose interpretation of roundabout regulations, a smash succeeding a diversion from the letter of the law should not lead to an automatic assumption of guilt.

To err, after all, is human and is a trait which frequently extends to others involved in an accident and why contributory negligence in motor vehicle accidents is a feature of Australian legislation.

At Accident Claims Lawyers we have dealt with countless cases where customarily diligent drivers have had doubts about or been dissuaded from pursuing compensation despite the other party involved in the motor vehicle accident being far from flawless in their conduct.

For example, a recent client made the minor misdemeanour of entering a bus lane early only to then be struck by a car crossing the carriageway in front of them as it attempted to turn into a side street.

Despite being ultimately helpless to avoid the traffic collision, our claimant’s initial appeal for financial recourse to cover damages and rehabilitation costs was treated harshly by the Insurance Commission on the grounds that the accident was preceded by their own traffic transgression.

The law, however, quite rightly places a weight on the degree to which somebody is deemed responsible and, although the foray into the bus lane was rightly reflected in the eventual settlement, we were able to argue the reduction in the compensation offered was only ‘slight’ where originally it had been ‘significant’.

Such legal arguments are not only pertinent to drivers. Another former client of ours was a young cyclist who, during night-time hours, suddenly opted to leave the pavement to cross a road and was promptly hit by a motorcyclist.

The rider’s actions undoubtedly played a part in the accident but was he wholly to blame? It later transpired that the motorcyclist did not have his headlamp on, which led us to explore everything from the position of the late evening sun to the provision of street lighting.

Such an analysis of a road accident comes with experience, which is why seeking the services of a lawyer following a crash is imperative.

At a time when you are potentially physically and mentally bruised it makes sense for a professional to take on the burden of thorough thought, not least when the initial advice comes at absolutely no cost.

In the same way a mechanic can recommend the repair or writing off a vehicle, our team of specialist claims lawyers can quickly give you a steer as to whether to pursue a motor vehicle accident claim or to cut your losses.

Multiple wrongs do not make everything okay but nor do they exclude someone from being predominantly – or even partly ­– in the right.

If you have been involved in an accident, contact us now.

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