The Duty to Keep a Proper Look Out While Driving in Tennessee
Under TCA 55-8-136, drivers have legal duty to maintain a safe lookout to help prevent auto accidents in Tennessee by “keeping the motor vehicle under proper control and by devoting full time and attention to operating the motor vehicle, under the existing circumstances to avoid endangering life, limb or property.”
Keeping a proper lookout means keeping a watchful eye for reasonably foreseeable dangers and hazardous conditions. As such, drivers are not responsible to see all known and unknown dangers—only those that can be expected within reason, considering all the circumstances. While a person may have a duty to keep a lookout for pedestrians crossing the street, he/she may not have a similar duty to keep a look out for things falling out of the sky. Again, courts apply a reasonableness standard, which only requires a driver to keep a reasonable lookout under all the circumstances. What is reasonable is a question for a jury.
What typically must a driver watch out for? Examples include:
- Pedestrians crossing the street;
- Children playing in the road;
- Drivers failing to stop at a traffic light or stop sign;
- Drivers pulling out onto oncoming traffic;
- Hazardous road conditions, such as rain, sleet or snow;
- The presence of children; and
- Any other potential problems or hazards that are in plain view and readily apparent.
However, drivers are often not obligated to anticipate driver negligence or unlawful conduct. A driver is also not normally expected to look out for things above or below street level. These situations, however, do not void the driver’s duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid injury. Just because a driver sees another driver run a stop light doesn’t mean he/she can simply proceed into the intersection without exercising care to avoid getting hit.
In upcoming articles, I will provide more information on specific circumstances for which a driver has a duty to keep a proper lookout. For now, be mindful that if you are injured in a Tennessee motor vehicle accident, you may have a cause of action against the other driver even if you are partly to blame.
To find out more about pursuing a motor vehicle accident claim in Sevier, Knox, Blount or surrounding counties, visit our website.