According to the American Bar Association, motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of personal injury lawsuits. They also provide a revealing example of how personal injury law works.
Negligence and Torts
Car accident cases are based on negligence, which occurs when a reasonable level of care is violated. They are also based on “torts,” or wrongdoings, which occur when one person’s act or omission injures or harms someone else.
Elements of a Successful Case
When someone pursues legal action after a tort, they must establish the other party’s negligence. To have a successful car accident claim, the plaintiff, or person bringing about the lawsuit, must prove the following:
- The defendant (or wrongdoer) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
- The defendant violated that duty
- The plaintiff suffered an injury
- The defendant’s breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury
One of the reasons automobile accident claims are the most common personal injury cases may be that the duty of care is already established in these types of suits.
Breaking Down a Car Accident Claim
When someone operates a motor vehicle, they accept an implicit duty of care to those around them. They also acknowledge that vehicles are dangerous and that their misuse is likely to result in harm.
Similarly, we have more or less defined the behavior we consider negligent as drivers.
Examples of this behavior include:
- Driving under the influence
- Distracted driving
- Aggressive driving
- Disobeying traffic laws
- Unsafe lane changes
- Failure to yield
If everyone drove sober, paid attention to the road, obeyed traffic laws, followed signs and signals, and drove defensively, traffic accidents would be exceptionally rare.
Typically, though, crashes occur when one or more drivers make a careless mistake.
In many accidents, this does not merit legal action. Insurance companies address property damage if it occurred, and both drivers walk away from the accident and go on with their lives.
When someone is hurt or killed, however, the need for a personal injury lawsuit may arise. This injury or loss can be proven with medical bills and other documentation, and doctors (expert witnesses) and lawyers can help establish the cause of harm or death.
Why People File Personal Injury Claims
In serious or fatal accidents, insurance settlements may not properly compensate plaintiffs for their injuries or losses. Lawyers get involved to help their clients pursue damages – or monetary awards to account for their losses.
People file these types of claims because successful lawsuits help cover:
- Emergency transportation and ER visits
- Medical expenses
- Costs of rehabilitative care
- Loss of income (temporary or permanent)
- Pain and suffering
- Funerary expenses
- Other losses
While money cannot undo an accident or bring loved ones back from the dead, car accidents can create difficult financial realities for those injured or left behind.
Filing suit can help plaintiffs handle these expenses and allow for additional comfort while they recover from life-changing injuries and losses.
Do I Have a Case?
If you’ve been in a car crash or another severe accident, you might have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.
Nevertheless, not all cases are as straightforward as motor vehicle accidents, and even the simplest collision can be muddled by third parties and/or defendant tactics.