Proving negligence in a car accident claim is usually a critical component of a personal injury lawsuit. If the victim can show that the other driver was negligent, it becomes much easier to convince an insurance company to settle or a jury to award damages. However, proving negligence is not as simple as just referring to a police report. There are key elements attorneys consider when constructing a case so that they can prove the other driver was negligent.
The Negligence Factor in Car Accidents
Proving that another driver is “at fault” for an accident is usually based in the idea of negligence. There are three elements to a negligence claim in any personal injury case: duty of care, breach of duty and damages. Depending on the jurisdiction and the type of court where the case is heard, car accident claims may also carry additional requirements to prove negligence.
First, victims must establish that the driver had a duty of care to others on the road or to his or her own passengers. This is usually not too difficult, as most states outline these duties clearly when someone gets a driver’s license. Traffic laws, speed limits and local traffic rules all combine to lay the foundation for the duty of care that drivers owe others.
Establishing a breach of duty of care springs directly from the establishment of that duty. Once an attorney shows that the duty existed, it can be a fairly simple matter to show that the driver committed a breach. For example, if a driver was traveling 70 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone, it is relatively easy to show that the driver was not exercising the required care and caution necessary to protect others on the road.
A breach of duty can be fairly small but can still lead to big consequences. For example, a driver who fails to use his or her turn signals or rolls through a stop sign is not committing a felony traffic offense. However, that small action could potentially cause serious harm or even death to another person. A lawsuit based on negligence is not concerned with the size of the offense but with the results.
However, the more egregious the offense, the easier it is to establish negligence. A driver who rolls through a stop sign has simply not committed the same breach of duty as someone who is driving drunk and speeds through an intersection.
Causation and damages are interrelated and are usually considered together. If the breach of duty was the cause of damages, it is easy for a jury to draw a line from the action to the results. This means that showing causation usually results in an award for damages. For more information on damages, see our article Understanding Personal Injury Damages. Causation can be “in fact,” meaning that the breach was the direct cause of damages, or proximate, meaning that the damage would not have occurred except for the breach even if the action was not the direct cause of damage.
Types of Damages
Damages can be compensatory or designed to pay you for actual expenses. Medical bills and property damage fall into this category. It is easy for a jury to understand that you incurred $15,000 in medical bills and $10,000 in damage to your vehicle. “Pain and suffering” is a common type of non-economic damage that awards victims a sum for their mental and emotional distress. In order to collect any of these damages, it is usually necessary to establish the negligence of the other driver.
In addition to the traditional elements of negligence, many states have special laws regarding car accident cases. For example, some states, like Florida, are “no-fault” states. This means that all drivers must carry their own auto insurance and collect from their own insurers up to a certain point. For more information on Florida’s no-fault law read Understanding Personal Injury Protection (PIP). In a no-fault state, in order to force someone else to pay for damages, the victim must not only establish negligence but also show that the damages were serious enough to warrant a lawsuit.
The Personal Injury attorneys at David & Philpot, P.L have the knowledge and experience to help you establish the other driver’s negligence in your car accident case. Contact us today for more information and help.