When an accident occurs it can be hard to understand exactly what occurred. The accident needs to be reconstructed by investigators in order to get a full understanding. Once that understanding has been given, liability can be assessed. An accident reconstruction uses a scientific approach to solving just how an accident occurred. Using a methodology that examines vehicles final resting positions, accident scene evidence, and vehicle damage, investigators are able to resolve issues such as speeds, collision severity, visibility, driver behavior, and other factors that contributed to an accident.
Most cases involving personal injury require that “negligence” be established as the fault for the accident. An injured person and his or her legal team will need to establish that the other person’s negligent actions caused the injury. To understand negligence, you’ll want to understand two other concepts: duty of care, and the “breach” of that duty.
“Duty of care” is the responsibility one person has to avoid causing harm to another person. With a personal injury claim or lawsuit, a lawyer will need to prove that another person had a duty of care in the accident that caused the injury. An injured person (called the plaintiff) will need to demonstrate exactly how the other party (called the defendant) failed to meet that duty of care. After duty of care is established, it will need to be shown that the plaintiff sustained real injuries that were caused by that breach of duty of care.
Level of Reasonable Care
For a plaintiff to demonstrate a breach of care he or she, or their legal team will need to show that actions either taken or not taken by the defendant failed to give a level of reasonable care. An appropriate level of reasonable care will be determined by the specific situation surrounding the case.
Establishing Who Is At Fault
After duty of care is established a plaintiff needs to establish exactly how the defendant “breached” the standard of care. Either the defendant did something or failed to do something that would have been reasonable under the circumstances. It will need to be shown that the defendant is legally at fault for causing the injuries sustained by the plaintiff.
For example, with a car accident, fault can be established a number of ways, including:
- showing the defendant violated a traffic law. A police report can be helpful for determining this.
- testimony of an eyewitness to the accident,
- the plaintiff’s own testimony regarding what happened, and
- examination of evidence at the accident scene, including vehicle damage.
Occasionally a plaintiff will share fault with the defendant. In these cases, it must be shown that the plaintiff’s own conduct played a role in causing his or her injuries in addition to the defendant’s negligence. For example, in the car accident scenario, perhaps the defendant made an abrupt left turn in front of the plaintiff’s car. But if the plaintiff was shown to be driving at a limit above the speed limit the jury or insurance adjuster might decide that the plaintiff’s own negligence played a part in causing the accident.
Every state follows some variation of one of two legal rules: comparative negligence or contributory negligence.
In comparative negligence states each party is able to collect collect damages equal to the percent of fault that belongs to the other party. So in the above example, the plaintiff’s total compensation or damages award would be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of his or her fault.
In contributory negligence states, if a plaintiff is found to be even one percent responsible for causing the accident, he or she is not able to collect damages from other at-fault defendants.
Lastly, to establish negligence the plaintiff will need to show how he or she was harmed by the defendant’s action (or inaction).
After an Accident
If you have been a victim in a car, truck, pedestrian, or bicycle accident, you should immediately contact a personal injury attorney that understands the specific laws around these types of accidents. They will be able to perform a full investigation and build your case. It’s crucial that you work with someone that knows the intricacies of the laws surrounding these types of cases as well as your specific state’s laws. The attorneys at Personal Injury Attorneys PLLC have experience handling personal injury cases such as car accidents, pedestrian accidents, and bicycle accidents. They will help build a case to ensure you receive everything you need to recover from your specific accident.