Several different factors, not all of them obvious, determine who is liable for damages or injuries resulting from an automobile accident. ... The decision of who pays for damages or injuries in car accidents rests primarily on motor vehicle statutes, rather than the traditional, common law definition of "fault."
In its purest form, "fault" for causing an accident is either created by law or defined by common law. Common law recognizes four basic levels of fault:
Negligence : generally means careless or inadvertent conduct that results in harm or damage, which is quite common in automobile accidents. One can be negligent by failing to do something, such as not yielding the right-of-way to avoid an accident, as well as by actively doing something (such as running a red light). Reckless or wanton conduct refers to a willful disregard for the safety and welfare of others. Strict liability may be imposed, even in the absence of fault, for accidents involving certain defective products or extra hazardous activities (such as the transporting of explosive chemicals).
Recklessness : – Sometimes a person's conduct is so reckless that it becomes the basis for a lawsuit or criminal prosecution. If a person acts with such utter disregard for the safety of others -- and knows (or should know) that his actions may cause harm to someone else -- he may be liable for injuries caused by his recklessness.