Car accidents can be a traumatic and life-changing event for those involved. In the aftermath of a crash, it is important to determine who is liable, or at fault, for the accident.
Establishing liability is crucial in determining who is responsible for paying for damages, injuries, and other losses.
Types of Liability in Car Accidents
Several different types of liability can be assigned in a car accident case. The most common types include:
- Negligence: Negligence is the most common type of liability in car accident cases. It is established when one party fails to exercise reasonable care, and that failure causes an accident and injuries. For example, a driver who runs a red light and causes a crash can be found negligent.
- Strict Liability: Strict liability can be applied in certain car accident cases, such as when a defective vehicle or vehicle component causes an accident. In these cases, the manufacturer or designer of the vehicle or component can be held strictly liable for any damages or injuries.
- Intentional Torts: In rare cases, a car accident may be the result of an intentional act, such as road rage. In these cases, the liable party can be held responsible for any damages or injuries resulting from the intentional act.
Proving Liability in a Car Accident Case
Proving liability in a car accident case can be a complex process. The following are some key pieces of evidence that can be used to establish liability:
- Police report: A police report can provide valuable information about the cause of the accident, including witness statements and any citations issued to the at-fault driver.
- Witness statements: Witness statements can provide valuable information about what happened leading up to the accident and who was at fault.
- Photos and videos: Photos and videos can provide visual evidence of the accident scene, including vehicle damage and injuries.
- Expert testimony: Expert testimony from accident reconstruction specialists can help to establish how the accident occurred and who was at fault.
- Medical records: Medical records can provide evidence of the injuries sustained in the accident, which can be used to support a claim for damages.
Negligence as a Basis for Liability
Negligence is the most common basis for liability in car accident cases. To prove negligence, the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) must show that the defendant (the person being sued) had a duty to exercise reasonable care and that this duty was breached, which caused the accident and the plaintiff’s injuries.
Some examples of actions that may be considered negligent in a car accident case include:
- Speeding or reckless driving: A driver who is traveling at excessive speeds or engaging in reckless behavior, such as tailgating or weaving in and out of lanes, can be found negligent if this behavior causes an accident.
- Driving under the influence: A driver who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of an accident can be found negligent.
- Failing to obey traffic laws: A driver who runs a red light, fails to yield the right of way, or ignores other traffic laws can be found negligent if this behavior causes an accident.
- Distracted driving: A driver who is distracted by a cell phone, GPS, or other electronic devices can be found negligent if this behavior causes an accident.
Defenses to Liability in a Car Accident Case
Even if the defendant is found to be negligent, several defenses may be raised to reduce or eliminate liability. Some common defenses include:
- Contributory negligence: This defense argues that the plaintiff was also negligent and that this negligence contributed to the accident. If the plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent, their damages may be reduced, or they may be barred from recovering any damages at all.
- Assumption of risk: This defense argues that the plaintiff voluntarily and knowingly assumed the risk of injury by choosing to engage in a certain activity, such as driving on a dangerous road.
- Statute of limitations: This defense argues that the plaintiff did not file their lawsuit within the time period allowed by law. In most states, the statute of limitations for car accident cases is two to three years.
If you’ve been seriously injured in an auto accident, it’s important to consult with an attorney who can help you gather and present the evidence necessary to prove liability and secure the compensation you deserve.