Many car accident claims are based on the legal theory of negligence. Although you may have a general understanding of what negligence means, you’ll have to prove four specific elements when arguing that the at-fault party owes you compensation. These elements are:
- Breach of Duty
Proving negligence is simple on its face, but in practice can be quite complicated. If you have questions about the claims process, Morgan & Morgan is here to help. We’ve been fighting for victims of car accidents for more than 30 years. Our car accident lawyers will make sure that your rights are protected and that you are not shortchanged by the insurance company. Click here to receive a free, no-commitment case review.
Element 1: The Other Driver Owed You a Duty of Care
A duty is a legal obligation that we owe to someone else in a variety of daily contexts: for example, whenever you operate a motor vehicle, you are required to drive in a reasonably careful manner. This requirement is known as a duty of care.
Every driver has a duty to obey traffic laws. You are expected, for example, to follow traffic signals, drive at a speed appropriate for the conditions, drive without impairment due to drugs and alcohol, and keep your focus on the road.
Element 2: Breach of the Duty of Care
Once it is established that the other driver owed you a duty of care, the next step is to show that they breached that duty.
The “reasonable person” test is often applied in negligence law. It asks, “What would a reasonable person have done in this situation?” For example, would a reasonable driver stop at a red light? Would a reasonable driver send text messages on a busy road while their vehicle was in motion?
The other driver may have breached their duty if they failed to do what a reasonable person would have done in the same situation.
Element 3: The Breach of Duty Caused Your Injuries
The third element that must be satisfied is causation. In other words, you must show that the other driver’s conduct (i.e., their failure to exercise reasonable care) caused your injuries.
Causation disputes can arise when a claimant seeks compensation for the aggravation of a pre-existing injury. The insurance company may also try to claim that your injuries are related to an incident other than the car accident, or that the accident was not severe enough to cause your injuries. Medical record documentation is an important factor in establishing causation.
Insurance company minimizing your claim? Consider hiring a lawyer.
Element 4: You Suffered Damages From the Accident
An accident might leave you feeling shaken. But without actual, verifiable injuries and/or financial losses, your claim could fail to prove the final element of a successful negligence claim.
The compensation you are eligible to receive is known as “damages.” Several types of damages are common in car accident cases, including money for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and property damage. It is rare to walk away from an accident without any damages since even minor fender benders can cause significant harm to your body and vehicle.