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I Was Injured When My Car Was Struck Because the Other Driver Didn’t Have His Headlights On: What Are My Rights?

line of cars stuck in traffic with their headlights onDrivers of cars and trucks owe a legal duty to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians to use “reasonable care” when driving that is commensurate with the care used by other drivers under similar circumstances. Failing to do so is negligent and may result in liability for injuries caused by the failure to do so.

Determining whether or not a driver negligently operated his vehicle is normally a factual inquiry to be decided by a jury. The issue is sometimes determined “as a matter of law,” meaning that the conduct was so clear as to be capable of being determined by a judge. The conduct may be assessed under statute (legislature made law), under “common law” (a body of law created through decisions in other cases), or by a combination of both.

Driving Without Headlights & Negligence Per Se

When a driver is found to have violated a statute, he may be found negligent based solely on such violation. In other words, the violation of a statute in and of itself is sometimes sufficient to sustain a finding of negligence, known as negligence per se. This includes conduct such as speeding, running a red light, or failing to yield the right of way.

Another common example of negligence per se is when the driver fails to use his headlights while driving at night. Injury caused as a result of failing to use headlights can bring about liability. This issue also applies to dim or broken lights, whether they are headlights or taillights.

Failure to Use Headlights

The statute at issue in the failure to use headlights or taillights is New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 375. This section requires that vehicles must have two properly functioning headlights and two functioning taillights in operation when driving from dusk until dawn. A violation of this statute can give rise to negligence per se if the vehicle’s deficient illumination actually caused the accident.

Proving That A Driver’s Lack of Headlights Was the Cause of an Accident

While it may sound like a statutory violation will automatically result in a courtroom victory, that is not always the case. You should consult and retain an experienced Albany car accident lawyer, to properly investigate the facts of the accident, and apply his experience in the handling of similar cases to properly address the issues that may arise – such as whether the failure to use the headlights was the cause of the accident.

When there is a question of fact, even if the defendant may be liable under the doctrine of negligence per se, the defendant’s insurance company and the attorney it retains for the defendant driver may still not admit liability, resulting in the case being decided by a jury to determine the disputed issues.

For instance, in McConnell v. Nabozny, the driver stopped his tractor trailer on a highway, headlights off, and was involved in an accident with the plaintiff’s vehicle. The defendant’s failure to have his headlights on was a clear violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, but the court failed to find the defendant to be negligent per se. The jury found in favor of the defendant. The appellate court ordered a new trial, stating: “it is established law that a defendant’s unexcused violation of a statute constitutes negligence per se and that it is for the jury to determine whether the violation was the proximate cause of the accident.”

Involved in an Accident With Someone Driving With Their Headlights Off? Contact Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany.

If you have been involved in a car accident involving a driver who wasn’t using his headlights in Albany or anywhere in the Capital District, you may be entitled to compensation. The personal injury attorneys at Anderson, Moschetti and Taffany handle cases in Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga and throughout the entire Capital District.

As practicing accident attorneys with decades of experience and record setting verdicts and settlements, we will work hard to obtain full compensation for you or a loved one.

Ready to take the next step towards obtaining the compensation you are entitled to? Call us at (518) 785-4900 or complete our easy online form to schedule your free consultation today. We will explain your rights and answer your questions.

Looking for additional information to help you understand your personal injury case? The following resources are a good place to start:

What is Liability in a Personal Injury Case? – Get an overview of the concept of legal liability and learn how it relates to the concept of negligence so you can understand who is at fault for the accident that caused your injuries.

What Constitutes Negligence in a Car Accident? – There are many behaviors that are considered negligent when done behind the wheel. Learn more about negligence in car accident situations.

What is Negligence Per Se? – The doctrine of negligence per se differs from the concept of negligence, but it may still be relevant to your case. Find out what negligence per se is, when it’s applicable, and how an experienced personal injury attorney can use it to help you obtain compensation.

Editor’s note: This content was originally published in 2014 but has been updated as of July 2018.

David J. Taffany

About David J. Taffany

Mr. Taffany is an personal injury lawyer and a founding member of Anderson, Moschetti & Taffany, PLLC in Albany. He specializes in all types of personal injury and wrongful death cases, including complex medical malpractice, products liability and labor law. Read More About David J. Taffany »