Imagine that you were in an accident caused by another driver’s recklessness and that you suffered serious injuries. Now, the other driver’s insurance company disputes your account of the accident. How do you prove your car accident claim? Read on for more information.
Establishing Liability Requires Proof of Negligence
When it comes to establishing liability in a car accident, a plaintiff must prove that the other party acted negligently, which caused the accident. To prove negligence, you must establish all of the following four elements:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care to operate his or her vehicle with care.
- The other driver breached that duty of care.
- The breach caused the accident that resulted in your injuries.
- Your injuries resulted in monetary loss to you, which you can recover through damages.
Remember that, sometimes, multiple negligent parties may have caused your car accident. For example, consider the following scenarios:
- The distracted driver who caused your accident was on the job and driving a company vehicle at the time of the crash. A court may determine that the driver is liable for the accident due to driving while distracted. If his or her driving record reveals previous traffic tickets, a court may also hold the employer negligent for hiring someone with a history of driving infractions.
- The driver who caused your accident was following too closely and rear-ended you at an intersection. While investigating your accident, you uncover that your brake lights were defective, which caused them not to illuminate when you applied your brakes. A court may determine that the other driver acted negligently by following too closely, but also that the company that produced your defective brakes also acted negligently and is partially at fault.
- A driver was following you too closely and rear-ended your car after being rear-ended by the vehicle behind them. A court would likely determine that both of the other drivers acted negligently by following too closely and thus contributed to your accident and injuries.
As discussed above, to succeed in a personal injury claim and recover damages, a plaintiff must establish negligence. However, that’s only half of the battle. A plaintiff must also prove that the accident caused him or her to suffer monetary damages. To build a solid argument regarding damages, plaintiffs should begin collecting evidence before they even leave the accident scene, assuming they are medically able. If you’ve been involved in an accident, some of the evidence that you should attempt to collect, if possible, includes the following:
- The police report, as the reporting officer’s narrative of the accident can help establish fault. When you receive the police report, you should read it carefully for any factual inaccuracies. If the report contains glaring errors, you should alert your attorney of the issues.
- Photographs of the accident scene that show the damage to your car, any visible injuries you sustained, the location of the accident, and the weather and traffic at the time of the accident.
- Statements from anyone who witnessed the accident. You should get contact information for all eyewitnesses so that your attorney can reach them if he or she has further questions, needs clarification, or needs testimony as to what the witness observed.
- All medical and property damage bills, which will help calculate the actual economic costs of your injury.
- Documentation as to the work you’ve missed due to your injury, as well as any long-term prognosis that may prohibit you from doing work-related tasks in the future.
- A journal of your doctor appointments, medical treatments, and even how you are feeling from day to day, as this can help show a court how your injuries have impacted your quality of life.
Let the Evidence Speak for Itself
In some car accident cases, liability is easy to prove. For example, consider the following:
- Rear-end accidents. In this scenario, one car has damage to the rear while the other has damage to the front, making it obvious that a rear-end accident occurred. Although there are some exceptions, rear-end accidents are almost always caused by the back car following too closely to the lead car, making it difficult to react in time if the front car stops suddenly.
- Left-turn accidents. The property damage in these types of accidents also illustrates what happened in the accident, generally involving damage to the front of the car that was turning and damage to the front right side of the other car. While there are some exceptions, such as when the car traveling straight runs a red light, the law generally assumes that the turning driver did not have adequate time or space to make the turn safely.
Other ways that your car’s damage can tell the story of who caused the crash include paint left on either car from the other vehicle, the size of any dents, and where the dents on the vehicle occur. Insurance appraisers and accident investigators are well versed in how specific types of damage can occur and whether the explanation of how the accident occurred matches up with the actual accident damage.
Calling in the Reinforcements
When attempting to establish fault in an automobile accident, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Experienced car accident attorneys know the proper steps to take to prove negligence, and they know how to use the facts of your case to negotiate a fair settlement. Attorneys also don’t tend to work alone when proving fault in a car accident case. Rather, they often rely on a network of expert witnesses from many different disciplines to help build a strong case, which may involve:
- Accident reconstruction experts
- Medical professionals who specialize in treating injuries like yours
- Economic experts who can testify about the impact that your short- and long-term medical costs will have on your way of life
- Mental health experts who can provide knowledge about the pain and suffering that you’ve likely encountered due to your injuries
If you were injured in an accident that someone else’s negligence caused, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side to provide guidance and assistance as you seek compensation for your injuries.