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When can I sue for negligence?

Monday, September 24, 2012
Law Made Simple

“A tort is a civil wrong (as distinct from a criminal wrong) for which a remedy may be obtained. It is a breach of a duty that the law imposes on persons (Black’s Law Dictionary).” Tort law covers many areas of liability. In this article attention will be given to negligence in road accidents.


Road accidents
A driver is under a duty to take proper care not to cause injury to other road users. Therefore, he or she must:
• keep a proper look-out for other cars and road users
• obey traffic rules and signals
• not speed
• overtake only when it is safe to do so
• not drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs
• slow down in wet road conditions
• not tailgate others
• keep the vehicle in good working condition.

Weather and road conditions are important to decide if a driver is liable for negligence. Negligence may be presumed when:
• a moving vehicle hits another which is properly parked or correctly positioned in a line of traffic
• an unlit vehicle is parked on the road at night with the result that another vehicle strikes it
• one vehicle crosses over its side and hits another on the wrong side of the road


If a person says that the accident was due to a skid on a wet road, or a burst tyre or a car malfunction, this does not automatically mean that person is not liable. Instead, he or she must prove that the skid, bust tyre or defect did not occur through his or her fault. Also, he or she must show that the burst tyre or mechanical failure was not due to faulty inspection or maintenance for which he or she was responsible.


With all torts, the court looks at all the facts of the case in deciding if a party was negligent. Claims for negligence must be brought within four years of the date of the negligent act.  In exceptional cases, the court can extend the time for bringing a claim. This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should consult a legal adviser.


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