As Pennsylvania motorists may know, liability for motor vehicle accidents is determined by a mix of the stipulations inherent in common law as well as state motor vehicle statutes. Fault, established according to common law, may not always designate liability for injury or damage in an accident. In recent years, a shift toward using statutory violations to designate liability is supported by the insurance industry and often incorporated.
Under common law, fault may be established if a driver acts in a negligent manner or is reckless. Other criteria include misconduct that is intentional or in cases of strict liability. However, there are additional concerns that may mitigate a driver's liability. For instance, if a negligent driver hits a motorcyclist and the biker suffers brain damage due to the accident and dies, the driver may not be fully liable for the injuries the biker suffered if the rider was not using a helmet in states where helmet use is mandatory. In such a case, the biker's death may not have happened if a helmet was worn.
In a similar situation, the family of someone killed in an accident may need to prove that a statutory violation was not responsible for the person's death. The family of someone unlawfully crossing the street outside the crosswalk who was hit by a drunk driver may not need to prove the act was responsible for the individual's death.
An attorney may assist the family of someone involved in a fatal auto accident by reviewing the elements of the incident to determine why it happened and whether comparative negligence was involved. The attorney may help the family communicate with the insurance company. In addition, the attorney may help by filing a wrongful death suit in civil court to recover damages due to loss of support and funeral costs.