What Do I Need To Prove Negligence In A Car Accident?Published: Apr 27, 2022 in Auto Accident, Personal Injury
Automobile accidents happen for a variety of reasons, from debris in the road, to distraction, to simple human error. Many are due to driver negligence: careless behavior that causes another person harm. Negligence can be an action or failing to complete an action. A driver speeding through a red light and a driver failing to yield to a pedestrian on a crosswalk might both be deemed negligent. When drivers do not use reasonable care to avoid injuring others, and someone gets hurt or property is damaged as a result, that driver and their auto insurance provider could be financially responsible for the damages.
What are the Four Elements of Negligence?
If you were in a car accident, believe that the other party was at fault, and they disagree, there could be a dispute about negligence. In order for them to compensate you for your damages, you may find that you need to establish that they are liable for what happened. Proving negligence can be part of the insurance claims processes or it can take place in court. The four elements to prove are duty of care, breach of duty of care, causation, and damages.
- Duty of Care: Every individual has a legal responsibility whenever they are driving. They must demonstrate the same judgment, alertness, attention, and care that a reasonable individual would show towards others.
- Breach of Duty of Care: Drivers who fail to maintain those responsibilities and do things like drinking and driving or speeding breach their duty of care to others
- Causation: Causation involves showing that the liable party’s breach of duty directly led to the car accident and the resultant injuries. You will need to prove that the other person was the actual and proximate cause of the crash. This means showing that if the person had not taken the action, you would never have been hurt, plus the accident must have been foreseeable.
- Damages: Finally, you would need to prove that the car accident caused you damages whether they be financial losses like medical expenses, lost wages, and property damages, or non-economic ones like long-term pain and suffering, or the loss of a loved one. You will need to show that the damages were measurable in some way, the medical care and/or repairs were necessary, and the costs were reasonable.
What Kind of Evidence Proves Negligence?
After any kind of auto accident, call 911 for assistance. When law enforcement officers arrive, they will check out the scene and speak with the parties involved. At this time, answer any questions clearly and concisely without elaborating. Anything you say could be misinterpreted or held against you at a later time – be sure not to admit any fault for the crash.
After a certain amount of time, you will be able to contact the police department to get the accident report. This will include information about everyone involved, names and contact details for any witnesses, the time, date, and location of the crash, and a description of what happened, plus any injuries and damages.
Witness testimony can really help to prove negligence, because these people have no vested interest in the outcome of the case. Witnesses are not always at the scene when crashes happen but if you see anyone, try to reach out to them before they leave.
What Else Helps to Prove Negligence?
Fact gathering is key for proving negligence, and it can start at the crash site if you or your passengers are able to safely gather evidence. Snap photos of license plates, vehicle damage, skid marks, lighting, speed limit signs, street signs, weather conditions, and any other pertinent details. Document any injuries, emergency services vehicles at the scene, and the road conditions.
Keep copies of any medical diagnoses, treatment plans, and receipts, and do the same for your car’s repair estimates and repairs that are made. If the at-fault driver’s insurance provider challenges your claim, you may end up needing to consult with a qualified car accident lawyer. It could be necessary to research the at-fault party’s driving record and other background that could have contributed to the likelihood of negligence. There might also be a video of the accident, depending on where it happened; intersections and parking lots often have cameras set up. Your attorney might even advise using an expert witness who can offer their educated opinions on forensics, health care, medicine, and accident reconstruction.
What if the At-Fault Driver Does Not Own the Car?
A lawyer can also help if the at-fault driver does not actually own the car. In some cases, plaintiffs who show that the driver was an “agent of the owner” who was working or doing something else for that owner. An example of this could be an employee who was making a delivery, failed to yield, and smashed into your car. In these kinds of situations, plaintiffs may be able to attach liability to the owners as well. With most negligence claims, the liability insurance “follows” the vehicle. If that driver had the insured owner’s permission to use the vehicle, that driver may be on the owner’s insurance. This could get more complicated if the driver borrowed the car without permission.
Other factors that make these cases more challenging is determining non-calculable damages like permanent injuries, pain and suffering, and wrongful deaths. Sometimes the damages are not awarded to plaintiffs right away, and they get pre-judgment interest. This may be applicable when there is proven negligence, wrongful death, strict liability, or willful and wanton conduct by the responsible party.
Contact a Belleville Car Accident Lawyer from The Cates Law Firm, LLC if You Need to Prove Negligence by an At-Fault Driver
Proving negligence can be challenging but with a trusted Belleville car accident lawyer from The Cates Law Firm, LLC on your side, you will better understand all the options available to you. For a free consultation, call us at 618-277-3644 or complete our online form. Our Swansea, Illinois offices serve clients in Belleville, Carbondale, East St. Louis, Granite City, Edwardsville, Chester, Waterloo, St. Louis, Madison County, St. Clair County, Monroe County, and Randolph County.