Who’s Legally Responsible in an Automobile Accident?

Posted on November 5th, 2021

Being involved in an automobile accident is one of the most common ways to suffer a personal injury. Every time you get behind the steering wheel, you’re counting on other drivers to drive responsibly, and for your vehicle to get you home. When that doesn’t happen, you can find yourself with hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in car repair and replacement costs. You may even find yourself with large hospital bills in the worst of circumstances.

The worst thing to come after the accident and all the bills is figuring out who’s responsible. Sometimes it can be as cut and dry as the person who hit you being responsible, but sometimes circumstances aren’t so clear. If you’re in a rideshare, such as Lyft or Uber, and you’re injured in a car accident, it only becomes that much more unclear. That’s what we can help you figure out.

The Common Causes of Automobile Accidents

It’s best to understand fault for a personal injury from an automobile accident by determining the type of accident. There are four common causes of automobile accidents in Pennsylvania. They only become even more complicated once a rideshare is involved.

Distracted Driving

Automobile accidents caused by a driver taking their eyes off the road are considered distracted driving. There are several causes of distracted driving, including but not limited to:

  • Texting
  • Talking on the phone
  • Eating
  • Drinking (non-alcoholic drinks)
  • Smoking
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Looking for something in the vehicle

In all cases, if someone else did any of the following when they hit you, they would become not only responsible for your personal injury but guilty of a crime. The summary offense penalty is only $50 and doesn’t affect your case in itself, but it would benefit your case immensely. It’s legal proof of fault, which would reduce the time needed to prove your case, and thus, less in legal fees.

If you’re in a ridesharing vehicle, such as an Uber or Lyft, and the person driving causes an accident while distracted that leads to your injury, you can sue them for damages to your person as well.

Drunk Driving

Driving under the influence of alcohol is criminal, deadly, and easier to use as proof of fault in court. In most cases, the drunk driver will have been tested for alcohol, like if they were charged with distracted driving. This is choosing to purposely endanger everyone else on the road.

Though that can sound like it can lead to something more, in a United States Supreme Court decision (Leocal v. Ashcroft, No. 03-583; November 9, 2004), DUIs were deemed a non-violent crime. You would be unlikely to sue for more than the personal injuries you sustained in the accident.

If you’re in a ridesharing vehicle with a drunk driver and they cause an accident with you in it, you can sue for a personal injury like you would for distracted driving as well.


At one point, Pennsylvania was known for having the deadliest roads when it came to speeding. If someone exceeds the speed limit and hits you, they’re responsible for the damage to your vehicle and person.

Vehicle Malfunction

Not all accidents are the result of negligence, however. Car accidents can be caused by motor vehicle malfunctions the driver may not know about. Whether someone else’s car suffered a malfunction and hit you, your rideshare’s vehicle malfunctioned, or your vehicle malfunctioned, the fault isn’t as clear as with the other common causes.

It all depends on what kind of malfunction the vehicle suffered. It could be the manufacturer’s fault for creating a defective product. If there’s a common problem that all cars of the make/model suffer, they would be the ones responsible for your injury. But, every car eventually breaks down, and no vehicle is promised forever. Some common problems happen naturally with time, and these cannot always be blamed on the manufacturer.

In cases where the problem is common, due to the car’s aging state, the car’s owner can become responsible for the malfunction. There is a degree of upkeep that is expected of an automobile owner to keep it running. If they were lax in this responsibility, they can be held responsible, and if it’s your vehicle, you’ll be at fault for your accident.

There are instances where the malfunction was neither common nor from age. Cars are machines with parts that can break once they meet something wrong on the road. This can be anything from a pothole to a down tree, or an animal on the road, things that may or may not leave a visible mark. These objects don’t always cause major damage that an owner can notice or keep track of. In these cases, you may be left with no one to point fault at, without a case.

Contact Kalinoski Law Offices for an Attorney Who Can Discern Fault

You’ll need a personal injury attorney with experience in dissecting the facts of a case to determine who’s at fault. Accidents may happen, but if they leave you or a loved one seriously hurt, financially and/or medically, you deserve justice. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Category: Personal Injury

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Craig Kalinoski
Craig Kalinoski

Craig P. Kalinoski is a respected attorney serving clients in Scranton, Pennsylvania. With a focus on Family Law, Criminal Defense, and Civil Rights, he has established himself as a top-rated legal professional. Recognized as a Rising Star and admired by peers, Craig's commitment to excellence sets him apart in the legal field.


We fight for the rights of our clients in a wide spectrum of practice areas, ranging from criminal defense to family law and personal injury.

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