Negligence – Accidents and Injuries

Family purpose doctrine. In some states they have what they call the “family purpose doctrine.” The rule applies to those cases where the head of the family maintains an automobile for the use, pleasure and convenience of the family.

“Papa” is liable for the negligence of a member of the family having general authority to drive the vehicle. This doctrine applies in the following states:
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina
District of Columbia
North Dakota
South Carolina
West Virginia

The “family purpose doctrine” has been said to be based on principles of justice and necessity. Usually the wife or children are financially irresponsible.

Claims against the government resulting from highway defects. Automobile accidents sometimes result from negligence in the construction or maintenance of a highway.

The traveling public is entitled to have the highway kept in a reasonably safe condition for ordinary travel. Failure to keep the highway in a safe condition may result in the highway authorities being liable.

If you are going to file a claim against the government on account of a highway accident, your claim must be filed against the branch of the government which has a duty to maintain the highway.

The branch of the government might be the state. It might be the park district, the county, the town, the city, or the township which maintains the highway.

The government is not liable for all accidents that happen on the public highway, but only for the consequences that may reasonably be expected to happen from the highway defects. They are not liable for extraordinary or unforeseen conditions.

In order to hold the government liable for injuries resulting from a highway accident, you have to show that it was the defect which was the proximate cause of the injury.

Here are some examples of highway claims:

Where the surface of the highway was made slippery by the fresh application of oil, tar or other similar substances, the state or county may be held liable for injuries caused when an automobile skids on the slippery road.

Width The fact that a road is so narrow that cars can not pass safely on it does not generally furnish the basis for liability on the part of the state or county.

Ice and Snow
Where accidents are caused by icy or slippery conditions on the highway, generally the state, county or municipality is not liable. This rule is quite often misunderstood because you hear a lot of people say they have a claim against the town or county because the accident happened on a slippery road and the town or the county failed to “sand” the highway.

Where the dangerous and icy condition has been permitted to remain by the municipality for a long period of time the answer might be different. Then, too, the duty of the highway authorities to guard against the dangers of icy roads is greater in populated or metropolitan centers than in the open country. There have been court decisions which allowed recovery against state or county when ice formed on bridges and highways from unusual conditions of which the state or municipality had notice.

A hole or uneven surface on the highway may constitute a defect and make the state or county liable where the highway officials have knowledge of such defects.

Also, the state, county or city may be liable for obstructions on the highway due to defective bridges, culverts, viaducts or trestles. Here again, did the state or county have notice of the dangerous condition?

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