Your Duty to Lookout in Auto Accident Cases

Texting while drivingVehicle collisions can be matters involving life and death issues.  Therefore, the law and courts in Oregon treat them very seriously.  Due to the complexity involved in making a determination of responsibility for a vehicle collision involves three related elements.  Keeping and maintaining reasonable lookout, reasonable vehicular control, and reasonable speed are what is referred to as the “holy trinity” of motor vehicle accident litigation.  Therefore, if you are involved in a vehicle accident, it is important for you to know that all three elements of the trinity—“speed,” “control,” and lookout,” will be alleged in a court proceeding.

All three elements will be presented to see if there is evidence of negligence sufficient enough to raise a jury question.  Usually, all three elements of “the trinity” allegations of speed, lookout, and control will be considered by a jury to see if any evidence supports any of these three allegations.  In this section on “lookout,” we will concentrate on examining just the element of “lookout.”

The Duty To Lookout

The duty to look out or “duty of lookout” is a widely used term by most states.  It generally means that drivers are to keep a reasonable lookout for other drivers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and people on bicycles.  If you look but fail to see something plainly visible to the average person, you are negligent and therefore may be held liable for an accident which occurs as a result.

So, one of the key questions is: “What is proper lookout?”  In some states, the term “proper lookout” is used.  The idea behind “proper lookout” requires a driver other drivers to see what a person exercising ordinary care and caution would see under similar circumstances, and to take those steps necessary to guard against an accident.  Simply stated, maintaining a “proper lookout” requires a driver to pay attention to the road and other drivers in an effort to avoid accidents.

For example, you cannot pay attention to the road and other drivers if you are busy “texting” on your cell phone.  That is because you will be too busy while “texting” on your cell phone and not exercising a “proper lookout.”

The Duty of Care

The duty of “proper lookout” raises another related question: “What is the duty of care?”  Failure to observe the proper lookout is legal negligence.  That is why “texting” while driving is now illegal in Oregon and most other states.  Some states make looking out a part of the “duty of care.”  To meet this standard of duty of care, drivers must do three things:

  1. Operate the vehicle at a reasonable rate of speed
  2. Keep the vehicle under proper control, and
  3. Look out for all situations that could cause an accident.

Now, we need to explain how “the trinity” of “lookout,” “speed,” and “control” fit together.  The answer is: All three of these elements fit together under one umbrella—the duty of care while driving.