A Driver’s Liability in Halacha and Civil Law deals with the issue of automobile liability in modern times. Over and above the concept of Adam Muad Leolam. This means that even if halacha were to say patur in a particular case, the fact that a person gets a drivers license and insurance, means that he is voluntarily subjecting himself to the secular law of the state.
In the case of dozing behind the wheel, one can argue that he is chayav galus for an accidental death which would be subject to kam leh b’drabbah mineih. Indeed, the argument can be expanded to consider him a Rodef and chayav misa from the time he falls asleep until he is stopped after the accident. In that case kam leh b’drabbah mineih could apply, though the argument can also be made that as long as he has not caused a death, this would not apply. Additionally, one can argue that having voluntarily submitted himself the the traffic laws of the country, he would be chayav for damages under that category of halacha and therefore not subject to kam leh b’drabbah mineih (in this particular case).
[A Driver’s Liability in Halacha and Civil Law](http://matzav.com/a-drivers-liability-in-halacha-and-civil-law-rav-mendel-shafran-and-the-dan-bus-company/
The Mishnah Bava Kama 26a teaches:
“Adam muad l’olam, bein shogeg bein meizid, bein er bein yashen. A
person has liability for all of his actions, both accidental, and
intentional” Consequently, one is liable for damage caused through
unsafe driving and Halachah clearly deals with damages caused by users
of the public thoroughfare as will be discussed below.
In addition to this, the concept of dina demalchusa also applies.
In addition, under American Law, driving is a privilege not a right.
Each state allows a driver to use public roads on the condition that
he agrees to abide by all applicable traffic laws. Thus, it may be
argued that by driving on public roads, one submits himself to these
laws, and agrees to pay for damages he inflicts according to the law
of the land.
Thus, the very fact that one is required to get insurance and a drivers license, means that he has submitted himself to the laws of the country as far as his ability to drive at all is concerned.
Furthermore the halachos of damages inflicted through car accidents
are dependent on whether the mazik – damager and nizak – damaged party
were acting “birshus” or “not birshus” (permitted and predictable
manner or in a unpredictable manner). Traffic laws play an important
role in determining what is considered birshus
As we see
Accidents caused by the violation of traffic laws are the most common
instance of negligence-per-se. For example, from a legal standpoint it
is easy to prove the liability of one who rear-ends another vehicle
while following the other vehicle too closely. Similarly, one will
likely be liable for damages caused while speeding.
The Halachah incorporates a concept similar to negligence-per-se as
well. One who causes damage in the public thoroughfare while acting in
an unanticipated manner will be liable, provided that the damaged
party was not behaving in an unusual or unanticipated manner. See
Shulchan Aruch C.M. 378-8 which rules that one who damages his fellow
while running in the public domain will be liable if he damaged
someone who was not running.
While the Halachos of the Shulchan Aruch operate independently of
secular law, applicable traffic laws define what constitutes an act
that is Birshus and what is Shelo birshus on the roads. In essence the
traffic laws dictate what is considered normal behavior on the roads.
Another point would be if he is chayav misa or galus for a death caused by his actions.
It bears mentioning that, according to Halachah, if one were acting in
a manner that was completely reckless, to the point of being a danger
to life, he takes on the status of being a Rodef. As a Rodef he is
considered chayav misa for the duration of time that his actions
present a direct threat to the lives of others. In this case the
principle of kam leh b’drabbah mineih applies. If the matter were
being tried in a Halachic court he would essentially not be liable for
damages incurred during this time because he faced the possibility of
capital punishment. However, there are opinions that kam lei b’drabbah
mineih does not apply in this situation because when one gets behind
the wheel on today’s public roads he accepts upon himself all the
rules of the road which would include the liabilities applicable under