A comprehensive set of traffic laws
established under the V&T act determine what type of driver actions are mandated
or prohibited, The V&T controls the propriety of the drivers actions and makes
driver actions in violation of it's provisions a traffic law infraction.
cases, a driver's violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law establishes negligence
in a subsequent suit by someone injured by that driver's conduct.
Two automobiles, or a car and a pedestrian cannot come in contact with one
another without one having violated the traffic law. Assuming that the
plaintiff driver can show some violation on the part ot the defendant driver
of a "rule of the road", the suing driver can establish a "prima facia" case
of negligence against the defendant. For example if a plaintiff pedestrian
walks onto the road at night and is struck by a car with one headlight out,
the plaintiff has a prima facia case for personal injury recovery even
though the defendant driver perceived and reacted to the situation as a
normal prudent driver. The defendant violated a statutory duty to maintain
his automobile and the failure to comply with the vehicle and traffic law
can be used to establish the case against him
emergency doctrine may excuse a violation of the rules of the road. For
example, crossing the center line may be excused by emergency evasive action
necessary to avoid a collision with someone that runs onto the highway.
Whether the sudden emergency doctrine comes in to play is a preliminary
determination to be made by a judge in instructing the jury.
"Acts of God" may also excuse a drivers violation of the traffic law.
striking a vehicle and causing it to lose control and strike another car is one
example of the "act of god" scenario that explains an otherwise avoidable
accident. "Black ice" often is argued to be an "act of God" that juries
occasionally accept as a non-negligent cause of an accident.
The Instructions by the Court:
If a personal injury case goes to
trial the judge will give the following instructions to a jury:
Statutory Standard of Care — Vehicle and Traffic Law Violation
The Vehicle and Traffic Law establishes rules of conduct which must be obeyed by motorists and pedestrians alike. Plaintiff claims that the defendant failed to comply with the Vehicle and Traffic Law.
In considering the evidence in this case, you must determine whether the plaintiff has proved that the defendant failed to comply with (that, those) statute(s). If you find that defendant violated (that, those) statute(s), such a violation constitutes negligence.
You cannot disregard a violation of the statute and substitute some standard of care other than that set forth in the statute.