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When does defensive driving affect liability?

Every Connecticut resident who has gone through the process of testing for and receiving his or her driver's license is aware of the term "defensive driving." This is generally defined as driving while being aware of what other people are doing on the road, and never making assumptions that other drivers will do what is expected. There is no doubt that this is the best policy as a practical matter, and will likely help drivers avoid car accidents in many situations.

However, from a legal and policy standpoint, there are other factors at play. Generally, we don't want people to be able to defend themselves against their own negligent or reckless actions by blaming the injured party after an accident for not assuming that the defendant would act negligently or recklessly. Further, if drivers could not assume that others will follow the rules of the road, it is likely that traffic would come to a complete halt as each driver remained constantly on the lookout for every other vehicle to "go rogue."

In service of these principles, Connecticut legally allows drivers on its roads to generally assume that other vehicles will follow the law. Drivers don't have to stop at intersections when they have a green light, for example, just because someone may ignore the red signal in his or her direction. This standard applies up until the driver in question should know that the assumption has become untenable. Thus, in the intersection scenario, if Driver A, who has the green light, sees Driver B actually cross against the red light and has time to react, Driver A must take action accordingly.

Using this legal assumption allows drivers or passengers who have been injured in a car accident attempt recovery of damages the suffered from a negligent or reckless driver. The sad fact is that even people who practice defensive driving can be the victims of an accident. Those who have suffered injury in such events should know their legal rights and how to protect them.

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Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C.
64 Lyon Terrace
Bridgeport, CT 06604

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