Disclaimer: The information presented below that you can use when involved in an auto accident – hopefully not in your lifetime – is not meant to serve as a substitute for legal advice. For further information on how you can exercise your legal rights after an auto accident, you should consult a licensed lawyer or medical injury attorney with enough knowledge on how to handle auto accident cases such as yours.
If you’ve done some time in driving school, one of the things that they teach you there is defensive driving. Unfortunately, mishaps do happen no matter how cautious you are while on the road. Before you know it, may have ended up with damaged car and hefty bills from the repair shop. Worse, you might have sustained injuries after getting involved in an auto accident that renders you unable to do things that able-bodied people can do. So how does the law treat people like you who are faced with such an unfortunate situation, you might ask? To answer that question, here are some things that you would want to know after having gotten involved in an auto accident.
But Whose Fault Is the Auto Accident That You Had Anyway?
Auto accidents can happen to just about anyone driving a car, regardless of how you handle yourself behind the wheel.
● Most auto accidents are caused by a fellow motorist’s negligence while driving their vehicle on the road.
● On the other hand, some auto accidents are caused by malfunctioning traffic lights that haven’t been replaced yet.
● Other auto accidents are caused by an animal either crossing or just suddenly appearing on the road.
● While not as common, there are auto accidents caused by manufacturing defects which might have been present in your car but you weren’t made aware of when you first bought it.
● However, not all states place fault on anyone in particular for auto accidents that occur within their jurisdiction, not even if it was established that another driver had caused the mishap to occur.
What Are the Elements of an Auto Accident Case for States That Make You Prove Who Is at Fault?
If the auto accident that you had gotten involved in happened in a state where you have to prove liability first before claiming any damages, you would have to show that each of the following elements was present during the time of the mishap itself once you take your case to court.
Every driver has to ensure the safety of others who they share the same road with by operating their vehicle in accordance with the following duties that they’re beholden to:
● Driving within a road’s speed limit.
● Being cautious, alert and aware of surroundings at all times.
● Keeping control of the vehicle.
● Making sure to maintain the vehicle regularly.
2. Breach of duty
One doesn’t just simply drive a vehicle with reckless abandon, especially if your life, as well as that of all other drivers and other persons on the road, is on the line.
● To determine whether or not a driver has committed a breach of duty while on the road, their behavior is compared to what a reasonable person would’ve done in the same situation.
● If a reasonable person would’ve been more mindful while driving their vehicle and you happened to be driving on the same road as they are, a driver can be considered as partially at fault if they’ve committed a breach of duty that’s connected to the accident that you had.
3. Cause in fact
After a connection has been made between a driver’s breach of duty and the auto accident that you had, you would then have to prove that the said person has directly caused the mishap itself to happen.
● Determining that a driver’s breach of duty caused the auto accident that you had is referred to as but for causation.
● If no direct causation was made between a driver’s breach of duty and the auto accident that you had, they would only be considered as negligent but not enough to hold them accountable for the mishap itself.
4. Proximate cause
Unfortunately, establishing that the driver who had committed a breach of duty did cause the auto accident that you had still isn’t enough as you also have to prove that they could’ve foreseen the harmful consequences of what they did.
● For cases involving negligence such as those concerning auto accidents, the offending driver is only responsible for those consequences of their breach of duty that they could’ve anticipated as harmful enough.
● On the other hand, if a certain harmful incident is remotely connected at all to the offending driver’s breach of duty even if it can also be interpreted as a consequence – albeit indirect – of their negligence, you wouldn’t be able to prove that they’re also to be held accountable for the said event.
Your troubles in trying to prove who exactly is at fault for the auto accident that you had are far from over though as you would also have to show that any damages that you had incurred as a direct result of the said mishap are recognized under the law.
● If you weren’t able to prove that any damages you attained either during or after the auto accident that you got involved in are legally recognized, you wouldn’t be able to claim any compensation at all.
Which States Don’t Make You Prove Who Is at Fault for an Auto Accident That You Had?
On the other hand, some states felt that making the victim prove just who exactly is at fault for the auto accident that they had and to what extent during a court battle consumes a lot of time and money. Thus, if the auto accident that you got involved in had occurred in any of the states listed below, you won’t be able to sue the driver at fault and make them pay your medical and rehabilitation bills as well as lost wages which your insurance company – that is, if you’ve signed up for an auto insurance – would cover instead.
● District of Columbia
● New Jersey
● New York
● North Dakota
Auto accident lawsuits can get convoluted, especially for those states that require you to prove who is at fault for having caused yours. However, as much as no-fault states had made it more convenient for them and their courts to just ask your insurance company to cover any damages caused by the auto accident that you had by way of your auto insurance, your right to sue the driver at fault is automatically waived which makes it a less desirable outcome on your end. Thus, it’s essential for you to weigh your legal options carefully before filing an auto accident lawsuit, or consider settling out of court instead. The important thing is that whether you’re going to sue the driver that caused the auto accident that you had or just ask them to settle the damages that they incurred on you, you should always exercise your rights that the law has entitled you to have.
About the Author
Scott Jeffreys is a promising young lawyer that hopes to bring his youthful spirit in his field. He is currently writing for the Dolman Law Group, and tries to add a refreshing modern take to topics on the legal world that people can learn from. Scott enjoys his free time with friends and family, and loves to cook for them.