Negligent Maintenance and Car Accidents

You have a duty to drive reasonably and sensibly when you are behind the wheel in Sacramento or anywhere in California. Motorists should drive within the speed limit, without distractions, and know California’s driving laws.

In the legal world, negligence is considered the failure to take reasonable steps in situations where one would typically expect one’s property to come into contact with other properties or persons. Drivers have a legal obligation to operate a motor vehicle (or motorcycle) that is properly maintained and repaired. If you are driving a motor vehicle, or motorcycle, that is not properly maintained, and your failure to maintain the vehicle causes a collision, then you may be liable for a victim’s injuries based upon a claim of negligent maintenance.

For example, if an owner/operator is aware of a defect in their vehicle that could potentially cause injury to another person or property, and they fail to correct the defect and continue to drive the vehicle, the owner/operator of the vehicle can be held liable for the damage and injuries caused due to that defect in the vehicle, even in situations where the owner is not the operator of the vehicle.

Examples of Poor Vehicle Maintenance Include:

1. Brakes

Brake failure has led to serious and fatal traffic collisions especially in situations of heavy traffic or driving at high speeds. It may be time for brake service if there is a screeching sound as you brake the vehicle, the feeling of a loose or slipping pedal as you brake, or if it takes longer to stop the vehicle when applying the brakes.

2. Windshield Wipers

Even though some parts of California do not experience inclement weather, our state legally requires that vehicles be equipped with windshield wipers. California Code, Vehicle Code – VEH § 24400, requires “windshield wipers to be in continuous use due to rain, mist, snow, fog, or other precipitation or atmospheric moisture.” Wiper blades should wipe water or other debris away without leaving streaks. When wiper blades age, grime and build up reduce the tight seal against the window, and it can leave streaks, reducing visibility. You may need to change wiper blades every few months depending on use and wear.

3. Lights

Headlights, brake lights, and turn signals are important for driving in California traffic. Drivers are responsible for ensuring that all the lights in the vehicle are in working order before taking it on the road. In 2004, California adopted a “wipers on, lights on” rule for cars, requiring drivers to turn on their lights anytime their wipers are “in continuous use because of rain, mist, snow, fog or moisture.”

4. Horn

Horns alert others of the vehicle’s approach or presence, and can call attention to a hazard. In California, “…A motor vehicle, when operated upon a highway, shall be equipped with a horn in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet, but no horn shall emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound.” See, California Code, Vehicle Code – VEH § 27000. This includes motorcycles.

5. Seat Belts

Under California’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act, the driver and passengers of a motor vehicle (not including a motorcycle) are required to wear working seat belts. The owner of a vehicle has a legal duty to maintain safety belts are in good working order for the use of the occupants of the vehicle.

6. Tires

Tire treads help the vehicle grip the road. Balding or worn tires are dangerous. If tire treads cannot grip the road securely as the vehicle moves, the vehicle can lose control and cause a serious collision. Under-inflated tires also pose a danger; tires with inadequate air pressure can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle and crash.

How can we help you?

Motor vehicles and motorcycles require periodic upkeep and repair. Maintaining your car, truck or motorcycle can prevent collisions and save lives. If you were injured in a car accident due to an at-fault driver’s negligent maintenance, call Kershaw Talley Barlow for a free case evaluation at (916) 520-6639.

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