When you need to hold another driver liable for causing an auto accident, you’ll have to be able to establish their negligence. This involves showing that they acted contrary to how a normal person would act in similar circumstances. While this may seem like a simple matter to prove, it involves a complex process of proving four different elements of negligence under the law. This guide will take you through those elements to help you understand what’s involved in proving fault.
Establish a Duty of Care
The first step in proving negligence is to establish that the other driver owed you a duty of care. This simply means that they had a reasonable responsibility to ensure your safety. The duty of care is different for every situation. For example, a store owner has a duty of care to ensure the floors in his store are free of slip and fall hazards. In terms of auto accidents, each driver has a duty of care to ensure they are obeying traffic laws and driving in a manner that doesn’t unnecessarily increase the safety risks for other drivers on the road. Complying with their duty of care can be as simple as stopping at an intersection when faced with a stop sign or red light. In this way, every driver on the road owes a duty of care to every other driver on the road.
Show That the Duty of Care Was Breached
The next step is to show that the other driver breached their duty of care. This involves establishing that they did something that the average driver would deem reckless or unreasonable in their operation of the vehicle. This is usually easy to prove if the other driver received a citation from the police. For example, if the driver was ticketed for speeding or for running a red light, it’s easy to show that they breached their duty of care. Any statements they make at the scene of the accident can also be used to prove they breached their duty of care. For example, if the driver tells the police he didn’t see the stop sign, this helps establish they were negligent in obeying traffic laws. It’s important to keep in mind that this works both ways. If you were also speeding, you have breached your duty of care as well. In that case, you are probably each partially negligent in causing the accident.
Prove the Breach Caused the Accident
Your New York car accident attorney must also be able to show that the breach of the duty of care directly caused the accident. This means running a stop sign directly caused the driver to collide with your vehicle at that intersection. However, if they ran a stop sign and you hit their vehicle a mile down the road, their reckless driving did not directly cause the accident. If you were speeding, you may be held liable for the accident even though the driver ran a stop sign several blocks away. The breach of the duty of care must be directly linked to the accident in both timing and location.
Establish That the Accident Caused Your Damages
Finally, you’ll have to show that you suffered damages as a result of the accident. If you suffer a heart attack three days after a traffic accident, you probably can’t hold the at-fault driver responsible for causing your heart attack. However, if you’re in an accident and a medical exam discovers brain trauma, it can be assumed that the accident caused the trauma. There are many serious medical conditions and injuries that may not manifest symptoms right away. This is why it’s essential to undergo a medical exam soon after being involved in an accident. The examination will help your attorney determine what damages to seek for you in your injury claim.
While you don’t have to hire an attorney to help you pursue an injury claim, it’s often wise to consult a lawyer. The initial consultation is free, and it will help you understand the strength and value of your claim. If you do decide to hire the attorney, they will work for a contingency, which is a percentage of the money they get for you in a settlement or jury award. People who hire injury lawyers tend to receive fairer amounts in damages than those who try to negotiate on their own.
Author information: McKenzie Jones is your typical Midwestern gal. When she is not writing or reading, she can be found training for her next half-marathon, baking something sweet, playing her guitar, or cuddled up with her golden retriever, Cooper. She loves watching football, fall weather, and long road trips.