Car Accident Damages Fall Under Personal Injury Law
Personal injury and tort laws govern civil legal actions to recover damages from a person or group negligent in causing you harm. Negligence is when someone has acted carelessly or thoughtlessly, resulting in harm. Car accidents are usually accidental and negligent. The driver may have been careless, but they did not mean to cause an accident and hurt you.
You can also suffer damages because of intentional wrongdoing. In either case, the negligent person has acted outside of reasonable, expected behaviors.
- Negligence. Most car accidents are purely accidental or the result of negligence. For example, drivers are expected to follow traffic laws, such as the speed limit or stopping at red lights. A person distracted by their phone might run a red light and cause an accident that leads to harm and damages, the costs associated with injuries.
- Intentional wrong. A driver may cause an accident knowing full well what they are doing. For instance, an accident resulting from road rage is usually considered intentional. These cases are less common, but they can be tricky. The at-fault driver’s insurance provider can claim the incident was not negligent and use that as a reason to withhold compensation.
How Do You Prove Negligence in a Car Accident?
To recover damages after a car accident—compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other resulting costs—you must show the other driver acted negligently. This is often uncomplicated. Driving through a red light or failing to signal a turn, for instance, are clearly negligent actions.
Even simple cases can become complicated. The outcome depends on what can be proven. You, or your lawyer, must prove several elements of negligence:
- That the law required the driver to be careful, within reason. The duty of reasonable care is straightforward in car accidents. Drivers are required under the law to be careful, drive at a reasonable speed, pay attention, and keep a vehicle maintained and safe.
- That the driver was not careful. You must show that the driver breached that duty of reasonable care. For instance, they were speeding or failed to watch for a pedestrian or provide a bicyclist with adequate space.
- That the driver’s lack of care caused your injuries. You have the burden of proving that the driver’s actions caused your injuries. In other words, you would not have suffered an injury otherwise.
- That you suffered damages, or losses, because of those injuries. Finally, the injuries must have cost you damages. This could be resulting medical bills, lost earnings if the injury kept you from going to work, and also non-economic damages like suffering, pain, or disfigurement.
In some cases, you can make a presumption of negligence. This occurs when the driver clearly violated a law, and it lowers your burden of proof. An example would be if the other driver was under the influence of alcohol.
Do I Need a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
Minor fender benders may damage your vehicle but cause little or no physical injury to you. These cases may not warrant a lawyer. You can file a claim with the insurance company and expect to get reasonable compensation to fix the car.
However, in some cases, you may need to work with a personal injury lawyer to get what you are owed or to defend yourself. Contact a lawyer in these situations:
- You suffered significant injuries or have substantial damages from the accident.
- The insurance company wants to discuss the accident with you.
- The insurance company has offered a compensation amount that doesn’t seem fair to you.
- The at-fault driver is working with a lawyer.
- You are being accused of negligence in an accident.
What Should I Do After a Car Accident?
If you have been in an accident and are injured with related damages, you may need to take legal actions and work with an attorney. No matter what happens, take these steps after the accident to protect yourself and your rights.
- Seek Medical Attention.
The most important thing should be the health and safety of everyone involved in the accident. If it is not an emergency, you can wait, but get medical help as soon as possible.
- Call the Police.
Every accident, even if it seems minor, should involve the police. Officers can investigate, given an opinion on fault, and provide a police report. That report can be essential in making a case for receiving adequate compensation.
- Take Pictures and Notes.
Making your case requires evidence. Take pictures of the scene, your vehicle and any damaged property in the car, and your own injuries. Take notes on the incident as soon as you can to ensure your memory is fresh. Ask witnesses to describe the incident as well.
- Consult with a Personal Injury Lawyer.
If the accident is more than a minor fender bender with little or no injuries or costs, you may not need a lawyer. Otherwise, find an experienced, reputable personal injury lawyer, preferably an individual or firm specializing in car accidents. They should provide a free case evaluation to give you an idea of what you may be able to recover in damages and if you need to file a lawsuit.
Car accidents can ruin your day or impact the rest of your life. If you have been injured in an accident, you have a right to seek compensation from those responsible. Contact a personal injury lawyer to ensure a good outcome and a fair offer.