Huner Law Office Blog

What is ‘Negligence’ in a Car Accident Case?

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In most personal injury cases, the victim often relies on the legal concept of ‘negligence’ to prove the other person’s fault for the accident. When it comes to related insurance claims and lawsuits, the issue of fault and legal liability boils down to establishing who, among the drivers involved, was negligent.

One of the most obvious ways a driver can be said to be negligent is when he is driving under the influence of illegal drugs. Apart from that, driving after consuming certain prescription medications can also result in negligent driving.

We’ve all come across certain commercials with warning signs that prohibit us from consuming particular medicines before operating heavy machinery. This applies to vehicles as well. If you’re found driving under the influence of such medicines, you can easily be accused of negligence.

Negligent Driving Includes

1. Not Being Vigilant

Inattention or taking your eyes off the road for even a split second when driving constitutes as negligence. This, again, is an extremely common form of carelessness on the road.

Not being vigilant when driving can lead to some serious consequences.  Drivers are required to be extremely alert when behind the wheel as this keeps them primed for dealing with unexpected occurrences on the road.

A few common examples of a lack of vigilance when driving include getting distracted due to:

  • Looking at the side of the road
  • Viewing a map
  • Reading
  • Changing the radio station
  • Using a cell phone
  • Taking your hands off the steering wheel while the car is in motion. For example, using the glove compartment, adjusting your seat/seatbelt, removing something from your pocket, applying makeup, eating or drinking, and even shaving
  • Looking into the backseat (for any reason), thereby driving with your back to the road
  • Looking at your passengers and talking to them when driving

Lawyers make use of one or more of the above examples to demonstrate negligence in a car accident case. If you’ve been a victim of a car accident, and have credible evidence which can prove that the driver was, in fact, indulging in any of the above activities at the time of the collision, you can prove negligence on his part and even avail a fitting compensation.

If, however, you have caused a car accident because of doing any of the above activities, you can be held responsible for it and your insurance company will be the one paying the compensation and increasing your premiums.

Of course, you can approach an experienced lawyer to fight your case in court. Be sure, however, to approach one in your area as such a lawyer would be well-versed with the laws of your state, which will be immensely helpful. If you live in Chicago, for instance, look for a car accident lawyer in Chicago, and you should be good.

2. Disobedience of Traffic Norms

Traffic rules exist for a reason. They aim to minimize inconvenience to drivers as well as pedestrians, thereby promoting orderliness on the road, and preventing accidents and other road mishaps. Breaking traffic norms can make you a negligent driver, and ascertain you as the one responsible for an accident.

Disobedience of traffic norms includes:

  • Running red lights or stop lights
  • Speeding
  • Driving too slowly
  • Stopping your car over the line at an intersection

3. Not Being in Control of the Vehicle

This can be highly risky. A driver who isn’t in control of his automobile is sure to cause an accident. This entails:

  • Stopping suddenly or without any warning on the road
  • Stopping over the line at an intersection
  • Swerving for no good reason

4. Not Using the Vehicle’s Safety Features When Required

With all other aspects of driving in place, the misuse or the underuse of the vehicle’s features and equipment could prove negligence. It is, therefore, extremely important to ensure that every part of your vehicle is well-maintained and in good working order. A few examples of this include:

  • Failing to dim high beams
  • Not using the indicator when making a turn
  • Not engaging hazard lights
  • Driving with defunct brake lights and/or headlights

Drunk driving is highly dangerous, to the extent that it usually isn’t included in negligence laws. In fact, drunk driving has its own set of laws i.e. DUI/DWI laws. It is, typically, treated as a criminal offense.

Proving Negligence in Car Accident Cases

In most jurisdictions, the plaintiff (or the victim) must prove the following four legal elements to confirm that the defendant (the person allegedly at fault) was negligent in a car accident claim.

1.   Duty of Care

The defendant must owe the plaintiff a duty of care. As per the driving laws, all drivers owe other drivers the duty to drive safely and obey all the traffic norms.

2. Breach of Duty

The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached his duty to drive safely. For example, the defendant failed to obey traffic norms.

3.  Causation

The plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant’s breach of duty actually caused the injuries. If the defendant did not cause injuries, he will probably not be held liable.

4. Damages

The plaintiff should be able to calculate into a particular amount, the losses and costs incurred by him due to the injury. If he’s unable to put the amount in numbers, his damages may be reduced or denied.

Most car accident disputes revolve around causation, wherein the defendant argues that he is not accountable for the plaintiff’s injuries, or that the plaintiff is responsible for his own injuries. Breaching the duty of care is also a commonly used argument.

Remedies for Negligence

Most car accident claims would require the negligent party to pay the other party a compensation for their injury and other losses and expenses related to hospital bills, lost wages, and vehicle repair fees.

Apart from that, depending on the seriousness of the case, the responsible party may end up losing their driving privileges either temporarily or permanently.

Conclusion

Proving negligence in a car accident case may be difficult is absolutely essential to be able to establish fault and receive the compensation you deserve. A skilled car accident attorney would be adept at satisfying the elements that need to be proven in such cases. Apart from that, the above information should help you understand what negligence is and what it entails, so that you can take up the matter appropriately and adequately with your attorney.