Mesa AZ | Personal Injury attorney Brian T. Allen discusses the duties to observe and obey that apply to all users of Arizona roads in the following post:

Many personal injury claims arise from incidents involving motor vehicles. Arizona’s roads can be dangerous places for drivers, pedestrians, and bike-riders alike.

In any claim for personal injury, including those that stem from incidents on the road, the plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant was at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries. The defendant will be found at fault if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted negligently and that his negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. So, the plaintiff has to prove negligence and causation.

In Arizona, negligence “is the failure to act as a reasonably careful person would act under the circumstances.” This reasonable-person standard is often viewed in terms of ‘duty.’ In any specific set of circumstances, a reasonable person has a ‘duty’ to act in a certain way.

The law sometimes imposes duties. In other words, there are express duties that state statute or precedent set for the public. A violation of such an express duty will constitute negligence. I want to discuss two such duties here, both of which are imposed on all people who use Arizona’s roadways: the duty to obey traffic laws, and the duty to observe. A synopsis of these duties is presented in Arizona’s Revised Civil Jury Instructions, and it reads as follows:

A driver is entitled to assume that another motorist will proceed in a lawful manner and obey the laws of the road—unless it should become apparent to that driver, acting as a reasonably careful person, that the other motorist is not going to obey the laws of the road.

 All drivers have a continuing duty to make that degree of observation that a reasonably careful person would make under similar circumstances.

The first paragraph does two things. First, it states that all drivers are entitled to assume that all other drivers will obey the laws of the road. This is very important, because it prevents a driver who breaks the law and causes and accident from arguing that the other driver should have anticipated his illicit behavior. Even though all drivers should be aware that other drivers might break the law, nobody is required to anticipate such actions. The exception, of course, is when it has become obvious that another driver is going to do something unlawful. In such situations, the driver may then have a duty to take evasive action or otherwise mitigate the possibility of an accident.

Second, by entitling all drivers to assume that all other drivers are going to follow the law, the first paragraph essentially imposes a duty on all drivers that they must follow the law. Indeed, if a driver has broken a law, and in so doing caused an accident, a jury will likely presume that the driver acted negligently. This converges with another legal doctrine called ‘negligence per se,’ which requires a jury to find a defendant acted negligently if he violated certain laws.

The second paragraph imposes a duty to observe on all drivers. This is especially pertinent in situations of right-of-way and pedestrian crossing. If a driver fails to make the observation that a reasonable driver would make in a given situation, then that driver violated this duty and can be found negligent.

These duties likewise apply to pedestrians, bikers, and any other active user of Arizona roadways. This means that pedestrians also have the duty to obey the law and make reasonable observations. For example, pedestrians should look before crossing a street, as that is what a reasonable person would do. Failure to do so could be found negligent.

If you are considering a personal injury claim that arises from a car accident or other roadway incident, and you believe the person who injured you violated a traffic law or the duties listed herein, please contact us to learn more about this subject.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding the Duty to Observe and Obey, or any other personal injury, please feel free to contact Brian T. Allen at  480.461.5335,  log on to,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.