The lives of individuals and their families are never the same after tragic automobile accidents where serious injuries occur. Victims and loved ones suffer emotionally, physically and financially. If the accident resulted from the negligence of another party, victims or family members may be able to achieve some measure of emotional and financial relief by bringing a lawsuit against the negligent party.
Proving a Claim
In order to win a car accident settlement, certain issues must be proven. These requirements can vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. The process can even differ based on how the accident occurred. The following list contains a few common scenarios that likely meet the requirement of legal liability, allowing a victim to seek recourse through a lawsuit.
- The other driver in the accident operated a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- The other driver violated a traffic law or laws
- A poorly maintained roadway with sinkholes, potholes or other hazards caused an accident
- Medical malpractice caused a medical emergency that led to an auto accident
- A defective vehicle or vehicle part caused an accident
- Train crossing signals or other traffic signals led to an accident
Proving Negligence in an Auto Accident
Most of the time, personal injury lawsuits require that proof of negligence be shown in order for the plaintiff to prevail in the case. This holds true for car accidents. For an individual to receive a verdict in their favor and be awarded damages, they must clearly prove that the four legal elements of negligence are present. These include:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Drivers owe a duty of care to others sharing the road.
- The defendant breached duty of care. For negligence to exist, it must be proven that the defendant breached his duty of care. In some cases, it may be readily obvious, such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or distracted driving. If a trucking company fails to maintain its trucks, or a county or city fails to properly maintain roads, these breaches reflect negligence. In addition, if a doctor fails to warn patients not to drive after taking specific prescription medicines, this could constitute a breach of duty of care.
- Breach of duty caused the plaintiff’s injury. This element of negligence probably causes the most controversy in legal suits. An attorney must prove to the court that the harm a victim suffered was “reasonably foreseeable” as a result of the breach. In other words, the harm suffered can’t be so distant and far removed that it can’t be linked to the other party to hold that individual responsible.
- Damages must have been suffered by the plaintiff. It must be shown that the victim was damaged by the harm done to him. When speaking of an auto accident, the physical injury, pain and all costs incurred are the “damages.”
Evidence in Auto Accident Cases
To successfully prevail in an auto accident lawsuit, a plaintiff’s attorney must gather and present pertinent evidence in support of the case. An experienced attorney first investigates all facts to evaluate them and ensure the best opportunity for recovery of injury-related losses. However, accident victims can help improve the chances of winning a lawsuit by using the following tips as a guideline if involved in an auto accident:
- Immediately seek medical care. Even if an ambulance is not dispatched to transport an auto accident victim from the scene, the individual should still get medical attention from a doctor as soon as possible. Not all injuries are easily or immediately detectable. Involvement in a car accident creates an adrenaline rush that can mask pain. A visit to a clinic or the emergency room of a hospital right away helps serve as evidence that the accident is responsible for the injury.
- Collect information from other parties. If physically able, the victim needs to gather information from everyone involved in the accident. Get names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, license plate numbers, and drivers’ license numbers. Even though this information may be available on a police report, errors happen, so it is wise for the victim to get the information personally. After all, some individuals may leave before the police arrive or give a false identity to police to avoid liability.
- Document surrounding conditions. Use a cellphone to note weather conditions, the time of the accident, and the behavior of other drivers.
- Speak with eyewitnesses. Documenting the verbal testimony of people who saw the accident happen can prove invaluable to an attorney later.
- Take photos at the accident scene. Use a cellphone to capture pictures of any road hazards, license plates, positions of vehicles and property damage. Also, take pictures of any visible injuries. Later, the victim should continue to take pictures of the personal injuries periodically.
Georgia Auto Accident Cases: Comparative Negligence
Courts in Georgia use the principle of comparative negligence, also known as comparative fault, in personal injury cases filed in the state. The underlying basis for using this concept is the idea that the plaintiff bringing the suit may have been partly at fault for the accident. Even if the other driver was drunk or texting when the wreck occurred, the court could potentially determine that the plaintiff was partially negligent as well.
If the court places partial blame on the plaintiff, it will assess how much the plaintiff contributed to causing the wreck and will then assign a percentage amount of fault to the plaintiff and to every party in the lawsuit. The court will then lower the plaintiff’s court award by the percentage amount of fault previously assigned to the plaintiff.
Given this information, it becomes clear that defense attorneys have heavy motivation to shift blame for accidents away from their clients. Therefore, it is imperative that victims have strong evidence supporting their cases.
Florida Auto Accident Cases: Negligence Per Se
Although not a frequent occurrence, there have been cases in Florida where proving the other driver was negligent is “automatic.” If the at-fault driver has committed a crime, the principle of “negligence per se” could be applied. In this case, the plaintiff’s attorney could argue that the other party is negligent per se if the driver was driving drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs, for example.
This type of case means that the victim’s attorney will not have to prove each element of negligence, because the law makes driving drunk a crime. Negligence is proven automatically by the individual’s commission of the crime. In such a case, the plaintiff’s attorney only needs to prove that the auto accident caused the client’s injuries. Using the argument of negligence per se does not mean the attorney can’t use the argument of ordinary negligence as well.
The following actions by the other driver could initiate a negligence per se argument to win a plaintiff’s case:
- Running a stop sign or stoplight
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Blocking a road
- Drag racing on a public street
- Letting an unlicensed driver use a vehicle
Contact The Eichholz Law Firm Today
If you or a loved one were the victim of an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, then contact our car accident lawyers today.
Call 855-551-1019 or fill out an online form for a free case evaluation.