Negligence refers to a situation in which someone has failed to act with reasonable care, and that failure has resulted in unintentional harm or injury to another person. For example, many car accidents are due to negligent behavior, i.e., carelessness or inattentiveness behind the wheel. Victims of negligent driver accidents may be entitled to receive compensation for injuries, pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage.
While it may seem easy to win a case involving a negligent driver, proving negligence can be complicated. To win a negligent driver claim, the injured party (the plaintiff) must prove four elements: duty, breach of duty, cause of injury, and damages.
The 4 Elements of a Negligence Claim
- “Duty of driver”: First, the plaintiff has to establish that the defendant owed them a legal duty of care. Since the law requires drivers to exercise care and obey traffic laws, this step is relatively easy. According to the law, all drivers owe other road users a duty to drive safely and follow the rules of the road.
- Breach of duty: The plaintiff must provide proof that the defendant violated their duty to drive safely. A violation entails someone acting, or failing to act, without a reasonable level of caution. Common negligent driving examples include failing to stop at a red light, speeding or driving too slowly, and failing to use the vehicle’s turn signals.
- Cause of injury or damages: The injured party must also prove that the driver’s breach of duty caused the harm they received. For example, a driver who looks away from the road to send a text may not see that his car has veered into oncoming traffic. If an accident occurs and causes another person injury or harm, the injured party may argue the accident wouldn’t have happened, but for the defendant’s inattention.
- Damages: Finally, the negligent claim must provide a monetary estimate for all losses and costs associated with the accident. Individuals who have been injured by a negligent driver could be entitled to compensation for their injuries and may benefit from learning more about their legal rights.
4 Elements of a Negligent Driver Claim
Frequently Asked Questions About Negligent Drivers
In an instant, the careless or reckless actions of a negligent driver can change your life. In the aftermath of an accident caused by a negligent driver, you likely have questions about your legal and financial rights. Below, we answer some of the most common of those questions.
Contact an experienced car accident lawyer today for answers to your specific questions.
What are some examples of driver negligence?
Examples of driver negligence include:
- Alcohol impairment: Around 30 people in the U.S. die every day because of drunk driving. Alcohol impairment impairs the skills needed for safe driving, such as the ability to track moving objects, brake and steer effectively, control one’s own speed, and pay attention to the task of driving.
- Fatigued driving: Often associated with long-haul commercial truck drivers and night shift workers, drowsy driving creates many of the same effects on an individual’s ability to operate his or her motor vehicle safely as alcohol impairment does. Fatigued drivers are three times more likely to be in a car accident than well-rested drivers.
- Speeding: Speeding, or driving too fast for the conditions of the road, is a factor in approximately one-quarter of all car accidents in the U.S. Speeding causes dangers, including a greater chance of losing control of the vehicle; less time for the driver to perceive a hazard on the roadway and respond by hitting the brakes; more distance needed for the vehicle to come to a safe stop; an increase in the severity of the crash; and less effectiveness from the vehicle’s protective features, such as its steel frame, airbags, and seat belts.
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving is also a major contributor to U.S. traffic accidents. There are three types of distractions, including manual distractions that cause the driver to take his or her hands from the steering wheel; visual distractions that draw the driver’s eyes from the road; and cognitive distractions that pull the driver’s mind from the task of safe driving.
- Failure to yield the right-of-way: All drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to other vehicles in situations such as stop signs, red lights, when making U-turns, at crosswalks or railroad crossings, or when pulling out from a parking lot or private driveway.
- Tailgating: Following too close to another vehicle increases the risk of an accident that is caused when the lead vehicle suddenly slows or stops, and the following vehicle does not have enough time or distance to come to a complete stop.
What accidents does driver negligence cause?
Because the vast majority of motor vehicle accidents result from human errors, driver negligence can play a role in almost any type of accident.
Some common types of accidents caused by negligence include:
- Broadside: Broadside accidents, also known as T-bone or side angle crashes, occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. This type of accident commonly occurs in the intersection from a driver’s failure to yield the right-of-way.
- Rear-end: Rear-end accidents occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the rear of another. This type of accident is generally the result of tailgating, though it can also be caused by a driver’s failure to judge the gap in traffic before pulling into a lane of travel (failure to yield).
- Head-on: Head-on collisions occur when the front of one vehicle collides with the front of another vehicle. Head-ons are often the result of wrong-way driving due to alcohol impairment or getting lost. This type of accident can also be a part of a multi-vehicle accident in which the force of a collision pushes one of the vehicles involved into oncoming traffic.
- Rollover: Rollover accidents can be tripped—meaning they were caused by the tire of the vehicle “tripping” on something such as a guardrail or median—or untripped, often as the result of emergency driving maneuvers such as swerving to avoid a collision.
- Sideswipe: A sideswipe accident occurs when the side of one vehicle collides with the side of another vehicle. This type of accident is often caused by a type of failure to yield in which an individual changes travel lanes without first ensuring that the lane they are changing to is clear.
How much does a car accident cost?
Car accidents can be extraordinarily expensive, not just from a financial standpoint but from a quality-of-life standpoint as well. There is no “average” cost of a car accident, as the costs vary widely depending on the severity of the injuries that were suffered, the amount of damage sustained by the vehicle, and other issues.
Common expenses and impacts that can drive up the cost of an accident include:
- Medical expenses, including ambulance transport, emergency treatment at the scene or in the emergency department, diagnostic testing, physician or surgical services, hospitalization, prescription medication, physical therapy, rehabilitation, prosthetic limbs, a wheelchair, crutches, or other medical assistive devices.
- Lost wages due to being too injured to work.
- The loss of future earning capacity created by a permanent disability.
- The cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life.
Do I need an attorney for my car accident case?
Yes. One of the important services that a car accident attorney can provide is a valuation of your case that is based on the full amount of expenses and impacts associated with your injury.
A car accident attorney can also:
- Guide you through your legal options.
- Identify all liable parties and all insurance resources potentially available to provide compensation for you.
- Prepare and file lawsuits, and appear at court hearings and other proceedings on your behalf.
- Engage in settlement negotiations with defense lawyers and insurance companies.
- Gather and organize evidence and witness testimony that can help prove your case.
- Take your case to trial before a judge and jury.
- Collect any monetary settlement, judgment, or jury award due to you.
To learn more about the process of securing compensation after a negligent driver’s actions leave you or a loved one injured, contact an experienced car accident attorney today.