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Human Error vs. Mechanical Error: Determining the Faults

When a vehicle accident occurs, you must consider several factors to determine liability (unless you’re covered with no-fault insurance). One of the most challenging aspects for car accident lawyers and insurance investigators is figuring out if the cause of the accident was human error or a mechanical failure.

Human error is a common cause of motor vehicle crashes and is often an indication of negligence or failure to maintain control. In many cases, human errors cause significant injuries that could have been prevented with better preparation or more careful execution of tasks.

However, there are times when machines or computerized systems make errors—also known as “mechanical errors”—that lead to the drivers making bad choices.

This article will discuss the various causes of car accidents and how to identify human error vs. mechanical error in a car accident, including why you need to have an experienced attorney on your side for a successful car accident claim against your insurance company.

What Is Human Error in a Vehicle Accident?

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Human error is when a person makes a mistake that causes an accident, leading to severe injuries. Human error differs from negligence, which is a failure to exercise the care that a reasonable person would exercise under the same circumstances.

For example, if it is pouring rain and you make a left turn, you are running a red light. You are considered negligent if a car comes barreling through the intersection and hits you. However, if the red light is malfunctioning and does not turn green, causing you to make a left turn in the rain against the light, and you get hit by a car, then the fault is not yours.


What Is a Mechanical Error in a Car Accident?

A mechanical error occurs when a car’s ability to perform as intended leads to a motor vehicle accident. When diagnosing a car accident, it’s essential to consider whether the mechanical failure was a result of improper part installation, the use of faulty parts, or due to a manufacturing defect.

Mechanical Errors That Cause Motor Vehicle Accidents

The most common mechanical failures that cause accidents are poor design or issues with manufacturing, resulting in defective equipment, poor maintenance, or a combination of the two.

Lack of Maintenance

One of the most common non-human factors that cause car accidents is incorrect or inadequate maintenance.

Any mechanical part of a car has a lifespan. If the part is used beyond its expected lifespan, it will likely break down. If the part breaks down while the vehicle is in motion, it can cause an accident. Some parts are more likely to break down than others due to their level of use.

The following are some of the most common maintenance-related car accident causes:

Brake pads: brake pads are designed to wear out over time but usually don’t break down randomly.

Tires: Tire blowouts are the leading cause of sudden accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tire blowouts are often caused by incorrect tire pressure, which can be due to a faulty tire gauge or negligence on the part of the mechanic who services your car.

Transmission: Transmission fluid levels need to be checked regularly. It is best to check your car’s transmission fluid level while it is still on the lift.

Defective Equipment

A car accident caused by defective equipment is one in which the mechanical part of the car was manufactured so that it is likely to break down at any time. In such scenarios, car manufacturers typically recall multiple vehicles so they can fix the issue.

The following are some of the most common defective equipment-related car accident causes:

Airbags: Airbags are supposed to inflate in a fraction of a second in the event of a serious accident. Recently, airbags have been under the spotlight for their ability to malfunction during minor accidents. An airbag malfunction can cause severe injuries to the driver and passengers.

Seatbelts: Safety experts often refer to seatbelts as “the most useless safety device in a car.” Seatbelts are designed to work in conjunction with airbags, which means they are supposed to be off when the airbag is activated.

Powertrain: Transmission, differential, and transfer cases are all part of the powertrain. These components typically last 100,000 miles but can fail before that mileage is reached. The best way to find out is to check the driving data logged by the car’s ECU.

Human Errors That Cause Car Accidents

Human errors can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional human errors occur when drivers make mistakes or violate traffic laws. Unintentional human errors occur when operators make mistakes by misreading traffic signs.

The most common human errors that cause car accidents are:


The driver was not paying attention to the road. This could be due to distractions, drowsiness, or not paying attention to their surroundings.

The Driver Was Not Familiar With the Road

If the driver was unfamiliar with the road, they might have missed hazards and traffic signs.


The driver was driving too fast for the road conditions. Exceeding the speed limit is a common cause of accidents.

Driving Under the Influence

Driving while intoxicated is a common cause of accidents. A driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol is less likely to see hazards or react appropriately.

Distracted Driving

The driver was using their cell phone while driving. Using a cell phone while driving is a widespread cause of accidents.


When an accident occurs, it is essential to determine what caused the incident. Sometimes accidents are caused by mechanical failures, and other times they are caused by human error.

If you were involved in a car crash that caused car accident injuries and would like to seek compensation, In that case, you must hire a personal injury lawyer from J.P. Ward & Associates to help you file a car accident lawsuit.

We are experienced in helping our clients receive compensation for injuries sustained from crashes, be it car or motorcycle accidents. Call us today at (412) 426-4878 to speak to one of our car accident lawyers.