You are driving to work one day and are injured in a car crash. An ambulance takes you to the nearest hospital. Not only did you never get to work that day, you will have to miss several weeks of work because of your injuries. Accordingly, you will lose wages. Doctors will send you medical bills.
Of course, you immediately retain an experienced personal injury lawyer. The attorney will proceed against the other driver’s insurance company. He will seek compensation for your pain and suffering, lost wages, and any out of pocket medical expenses.
Getting back to the car crash, you know that the other driver was clearly at fault. He or she ran a red light. Or maybe they ignored a stop sign. Perhaps the fact that the other driver drove well over the speed limit caused the car crash. All these things are examples of violations of New Jersey traffic laws.
This post is part of a continuing series. I am discussing recent amendments to the instructions that judges provide to juries deciding car crash (and other) cases. One of the jury instructions that the New Jersey Supreme Court recently changed pertains to what happens when a driver violates traffic laws.
CAR CRASH TRAFFIC VIOLATION JURY INSTRUCTION
Basically, the jury instruction says that the judge in a car crash case has three options. The first is that the judge can refrain from instructing the jurors that the driver violated a traffic law. The judge will rule this way mainly in cases where the traffic violation didn’t cause the car crash. For example, if the driver who allegedly caused the accident only violated the law mandating wearing seatbelts.
The second option is to charge the jury that they may consider the traffic violation as evidence of the driver’s negligence. But that they may also consider other factors.
The last option is for the judge to charge the jury that the legal violation itself constituted negligence. In legal terminology, this is known as “negligence per se.”
Judges make these decisions on a case by case basis.
Therefore, an experienced car crash attorney will research all applicable prior cases, and use that legal precedent to try to persuade the judge to rule that any traffic violation by the other driver was negligence per se.