Cars are an essential part of modern life, but it’s important to recognize the risks the accompany driving. In 2015 alone there were more than 32,000 fatal crashes in the United States, causing more than 35,000 deaths. Nonfatal car accidents are incredibly common as well, and injured drivers should know their options for legal recourse following a crash.
Determining Liability for a Motor Vehicle Accident
Most motor vehicle accidents that cause injuries will lead to personal injury lawsuits. However, some accidents may happen due to faulty car parts or poor road maintenance. If a defective part is to blame for an injury, the injured person can seek compensation by filing a product liability claim against the manufacturer. In these situations, the plaintiff does not necessarily have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent; he or she must only prove that the product was in fact defective and that the defect caused the accident.
If poor road maintenance caused the plaintiff’s injuries, he or she will likely need to a file a claim against the government agency responsible for maintaining the location where the accident occurred. Filing a claim against a public or government organization is very different than filing a civil claim against another private citizen, so it’s very important for injured plaintiffs in these situations to secure legal representation as quickly as possible to meet the strict filing deadlines for claims against the government.
Most motor vehicle accidents occur due to driver negligence, so most lawsuits resulting from car crashes are personal injury claims against private citizens. All drivers have a duty of care to operate their vehicles responsibly and to follow all posted traffic signs. When drivers fail to do this, they risk serious injury and damages to others. To prove negligence in a personal injury case, the plaintiff must show the court three facts:
- The defendant had a duty to act with reasonable care. An example could be that a driver has an obligation to drive under the posted speed limit.
- The defendant breached this duty in some way. Following the previous example, driving faster than the speed limit creates a hazard for other drivers in the area.
- The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the plaintiff’s damages. It’s important to note that if a plaintiff suffered no injury or damages, he or she has no claim. Plaintiffs can only sue after suffering actual harm or measurable loss.
Damages in Car Accident Cases
Motor vehicle accidents can cause serious or even fatal injuries. Some of the types of compensation that may be available to injured plaintiffs in motor vehicle crash claims include:
- Medical expenses. Injured victims can sue for the cost of medical treatment for their injuries. This includes hospital bills, emergency transportation fees, surgical costs, prescription costs, and any other expenses related to treating the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Pain and suffering. Many people in car accidents suffer broken bones and other painful wounds. A judge will assess the physical pain and mental anguish a plaintiff endured and award an appropriate amount of compensation.
- Property damage. The plaintiff can sue for damage to his or her vehicle as well as the costs of repairing or replacing any personal items damaged or destroyed in the incident.
- Lost income. If an injury prevents a plaintiff from resuming work for an extended time, he or she can sue for the wages he or she would have reasonably expected to earn in that time.
After a car accident, you’re likely to be confused about what your next steps should be. After dealing with the immediate aftermath, talking to the police, and seeking medical treatment, it’s time to consider your legal options. Reach out to Bode & Collins to schedule a case evaluation about your motor vehicle accident claim. We’ll review the details of your situation and let you know what to expect from pursuing legal action.