Car Accident Law




What is Car Accident Law?

Car accident law refers to the legal rules that determine who is responsible for the personal and property damage resulting from a traffic collision. This area of the law consists of the principles of negligence, as applied to this particular category of personal injury cases. Like other cases in which negligence law applies, car accident litigation is governed almost entirely by state law.

While nuances exist, car accident victims in every state must prove the same basic four elements in order to recover compensation. These elements are: duty, breach, causation, and harm. With respect to duty, drivers have a legal obligation to obey the rules of the road and to operate their vehicles in a reasonable manner. This means driving a safe speed, maintaining control, exercising awareness, observing traffic signals, using blinkers and headlights, etc.

The existence of a duty is typically accepted without much argument. By contrast, the plaintiff will usually be required to offer evidence that the defendant breached that duty. Breach can be shown by direct evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, traffic surveillance video, or an admission of fault. Or, the plaintiff may need to resort to circumstantial evidence, such as skid marks, paint smudges, or blood alcohol readings.

Just because the defendant had a duty to operate his or her vehicle in a certain manner, and it is shown that the defendant breached that duty, the court will not assume those circumstances caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Rather, the plaintiff must prove the element of causation. In car accident cases, this can be done through medical testimony demonstrating the injuries are consistent with the nature of the crash, and that they did not exist beforehand.

Finally, the plaintiff must prove harm. No matter how egregious the other driver’s conduct was behind the wheel, the plaintiff cannot bring a negligence lawsuit unless the conduct produced damage to the plaintiff’s person or vehicle. “Near miss” cases will not qualify. Once harm is shown, the plaintiff may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and grief, lost wages, and more.

Steps to Take Following an Accident

The first thing to do after a car accident is to remain silent about who is to blame for the incident. As simple as this may seem, admitting fault is by far the most common mistake potential litigants make in the moments following a crash. Ordinarily, the rules of evidence do not allow out-of-court statements (aka “hearsay”). But there is an exception for admissions. Even a simple apology can potentially be used against you.

Conversely, it is important to make notes of any statements made by the other driver. A smart phone, tablet, or other electronic device can be great for recording voice memos in the chaos of an accident scene. By whatever means are available, gather as much detail about the accident as possible. To begin with, take down the other driver’s name and address, license number, and insurance information.

Other evidence to preserve includes witness contact information, descriptions of the road, traffic, and weather conditions, and photographs of the vehicles. If your cell phone or camera has the ability to record video, use it. Make a video of the accident scene up close and from a distance, including the location of traffic signs, crosswalks, and so forth. Also be sure to write down the names of police officers so it will be easier to get copies of their reports.

Never overlook the importance of seeking immediate medical attention. The whiplash motion caused by car accidents can produce injuries the victim may not notice at first, but that become more pronounced as time passes. As a potential plaintiff in a negligence case, you do not want the other driver’s attorney to belittle the severity of your injuries, based on the fact that you did not feel it necessary to seek treatment right away.

Of everything that can be done after a car accident to preserve a victim’s right to compensation, contacting a personal injury lawyer will have the greatest impact. Without the assistance of counsel, you will be alone and vulnerable to the tactics of the opposing side’s insurance company. The adjuster may pressure you to accept an unfair settlement, or to waive other rights. Before signing anything, be sure to consult an attorney.

Copyright HG.org

Know Your Rights!

  • Can Texting While Driving Lead to a Murder Charge

    A driver was sending a text message when he accidentally swerved across the middle line and killed the driver of a vehicle heading in the opposite direction. The incident was clearly an accident, but was the teen's action of composing text messages while driving so wanton and reckless that it could amount to criminal homicide?

  • Hit and Run Accidents and the Consequences

    For those who caused the accident then fled the scene, usually in a panic, the consequences can be severe.

  • How do You Know Who is at Fault in a Car Accident

    Determining the responsible party for a car accident can sometimes be tricky. There is often a difference between who actually caused an accident and who legally is at fault.

  • How to Know if a Car Accident Case is Worth Anything

    Virtually any civil lawsuit has one thing in common: damages. That is the injury, financial harm, or damage to property for which one is entitled to recover money from the other party.

  • In a Rear End Collision, Is the Guy in the Back Always at Fault?

    Being in any accident can be a nightmare, but when you are the driver of a vehicle that collided with another from the rear, it can be particularly troubling. Conventional wisdom will usually tell you that the driver in the back is always at fault, and in most instances this will be true, but not all.

  • Single-Vehicle Accidents

    A single vehicle collision or single-vehicle accident is, as the name implies, a car collision in which only one vehicle is involved. This can include accidents like running off the road, colliding with fallen rocks, running over debris on the road, losing control of the vehicle and rolling it, hitting animals, and so forth.

  • What to do After a Bike Accident

    First, the rider must try to keep his or her cool. What you do in the immediate aftermath of any accident, including a bike accident, may have a big impact on how much you recover for your injuries and damage to your bike. It may also affect the outcome of any lawsuits resulting from the accident.

  • What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident

    For many, it can be a nightmare scenario: driving safely and minding their own business when another vehicle hits them, causes damage and possibly injuries, then flees the scene. What do you do? Who will pay for the damage?

  • What to do When a Defective Part Caused Your Car Accident

    We expect our cars to keep us and our families safe, but with a system of hundreds of moving parts, it is not uncommon for something to fail, often with dangerous results. Indeed, each year, millions of cars are recalled because of manufacturing defects or defective parts that can cause fatal car crashes.

Articles About Car Accident Law

  • Whiplash Injuries after a Car Accident
    Whiplash is a common injury in car accidents that occurs when a person’s neck jolts back-and-forth in a sudden, sharp motion, most often occurring during the impact of a car crash.
  • Social Media Can Harm a Personal Injury Case
    Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites have become a central part of millions of American lives. Individuals share events, photos and thoughts with family and friends without consideration to the consequences that can occur in the future.
  • The High Cost of Distracted Driving in Pennsylvania
    In Pennsylvania alone, distracted driving and cell phone use resulted in thousands of injuries and more than 200 fatalities last year.
  • Summer Driving Accidents
    When summer approaches, air travel and road transportation increase to a great degree. Due to the volume of vehicles on the road, accident statistics soar during these hotter months. The potential of summer month accidents increases the closer the season approaches. The collision issues affect both those traveling as well as those just driving to work, home or to entertainment facilities.
  • Dealing with Insurance Companies after a Car Accident
    Insurance companies play an important role in the aftermath of a car accident. In some cases, the accident victim must make a claim against his or her own insurance company. In other cases, the claim is made against the insurance company that insures the party responsible for the accident. Regardless of the circumstances involving the accident, the person involved in the accident may consider taking the following steps:
  • Special Issues with Facial Injuries
    Facial injuries can be devastating and traumatic. In the personal injury context, they are different from other types of injuries; the very appearance of a scar, a wound, or disfigurement may need to be compensated. Much more than visible damage to other parts of the body, facial injuries can cause emotional distress, affect quality of life, or require reconstructive surgery. How does a personal injury case function or change when the injury is to a victim’s face?
  • Pedestrian Liability in Vehicular Accidents
    Accidents between a pedestrian and a car can be some of the most dangerous kinds of vehicular incidents in terms of the possibility for serious personal injury or death. The weight and momentum of a vehicle, combined with the lack of protection inherent to being a pedestrian makes it so that even a low speed collision can cause grievous injuries to the people involved.
  • Medical Records and Insurance Companies after a Car Accident
    After suffering injuries in a car accident, a person may seek compensation or coverage for the medical bills related to these injuries, either from their own insurance company or from a third party insurance company. Whichever insurance company a person is dealing with, there may come a point in the claims process where additional medical information is requested by the insurance company.
  • Jeep Recall After Actor Death Of an Actor
    Star Trek actor, Anton Yelchin, was fatally injured on June 19,2016 when his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backwards and pinned him against a brick pillar and metal security gate at his California home. The accident is still under investigation; however, a safety recall was issued in April for the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
  • Maryland Passes Landmark Safety Law
    With the recent approval of Maryland’s car safety disclosure laws, car manufacturers will no longer be permitted to punish dealers for sharing information about any safety or defect information with potential buyers. While some states allow car dealers to provide information about safety issues if customers request it, Maryland takes this one step further by allowing dealers to disclose this information to anyone who buys a car from the dealership.
  • All Motor Vehicles Law Related Articles

Car Accident Law Handbook

  • Car Accident Law Handbook

    Knowing what to do immediately after an accident can make a significant impact in a case and help individuals protect their legal rights. Use this car accident law handbook to understand your legal rights and strengthen your claim.

Car and Automobile Accidents in the US

Car and Automobile Accidents in Europe

Car and Automobile Accidents - International

Organizations For Car Accident Law




Contact a Lawyer

Find a Local Lawyer