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.
Know Your Rights!
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- 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
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- 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
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- What to do After a Bike Accident
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- What to Do After a Hit-and-Run Accident
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- What to do When a Defective Part Caused Your Car Accident
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Articles About Car Accident Law
- 13 Mistakes that Can Hurt Your Car Accident Case and the Compensation You're Entitled ToCar accident cases involving personal injury can be stressful, tedious, and confusing. They are not to be handled alone. A highly-experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to guide you in the right direction and ensure that you don’t make any mistakes that can hurt your case. But little mistakes can put huge dents in your car accident case. Some result from traps set up by defense attorneys and insurance companies. Here’s a list of 13 mistakes that could hurt your car accident case.
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- Shoulder Injuries in Motor Vehicle AccidentsMotor vehicle accidents can lead to a number of serious injuries. One such injury can be shoulder injuries. These types of injuries can have serious implications.
- Why You Should Not Talk to the Other Side's Insurance Adjuster After an Automotive AccidentTalking to an insurance adjuster after an automotive accident can often lead to disastrous consequences. By taking on this important feat, it is likely that the victim injured in a personal injury case will make a mistake that will adversely affect his or her case.
- Should I Go Through My Insurance for Collision Coverage or the Other Driver's Insurance?Knowing what to do in regards to insurance and covering the property damage to your car after an accident can be confusing. You have options to cover your property damage with collision coverage: go through your own insurance, or the other driver’s. Both have their pros, and both have their cons...
- Why Victims Need California Uber Car Accident Lawyers for Ride Sharing Personal Injury ClaimsOne might have thought it would be easy to settle an Uber accident claim or lawsuit in California. After all, California now requires increased amounts of insurance coverage for Uber accidents. However, there’s nothing simple in resolving an Uber car accident case and the difficulties are only going to increase substantially when Uber cars become self-driving. More than ever, victims of Uber auto accidents need experienced Uber car accident personal injury lawyers.
- Why Cars CrashMany accidents have various faults and reasons behind the why and how. Though there are dangers on the road or with weather, most collisions and injuries are caused by drivers. These accidents may be through distractions, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, crumbling roads, dangerous weather, objects in the road and many other similar obstructions and issues.
- Important Documents for Accident Victims to Prove their CaseWhen an accident occurs, many victims and participants are completely unaware of what procedures, documentation and other issues need to be completed or taken care of. Without the aid of a lawyer, this information may elude those that require it most. In most instances, an accident with vehicles involved necessitates an insurance claim for damage to the car and repairs.
- 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
- Automobile Accidents, Tort Law, Externalities, and Insurance: An Economist’s Critique
Nearly half a century ago, William Vickrey of Columbia University published this essay on car accident compensation. It remains useful today for those interested in an economist’s perspective on the subject.
- Car Accident Advice
Practical advice explaining what to do after a car accident. The page also discusses how economic losses from an accident are treated under the tax code.
- Car Accidents - Wikipedia
This online encyclopedia entry describes how car accidents occur, the damage they cause to life and property, and what is being done to prevent them.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (FARS)
Official government site providing car accident fatality data. This spreadsheet tracks the total number of deaths and related statistics in the United States since 1994.
- What to Do After a Car Accident
Edmunds.com provides a detailed plan of action for dealing with a collision, and a discussion of the items to keep inside an accident preparedness kit.
Car and Automobile Accidents in Europe
Car and Automobile Accidents - International
Organizations For Car Accident Law
- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
- Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
- Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
- Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS)
- Federal Highway Administration
- Highway Safety Research Center
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- National Crash Analysis Center (NCAC)
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- U.S Deparment of Transportation