Motor vehicle accident cases, regardless of whether in a car, motorcycle, golf cart, moped, or other mechanical device used to transport people on highways, are negligence cases. Most Florida car accident lawyers learn the elements of proof for negligence in first-year torts class, but the concept can be complicated. Proving damages in a car wreck case is more than just saying “I was in a car wreck, and I’m hurt.” To be successful in an automobile accident claim a plaintiff must prove four things:
Elements of Being a Plaintiff
1. There was a duty to act with reasonable care to prevent harm to someone else; 2. Breach of the duty of care; 3. The breach caused the car wreck; and 4. The car wreck caused real harm or injuries.
- Duty – Proving duty is relatively easy in a car wreck case because the rules of the road give a basic outline for how we are supposed to drive. Every driver on the road owes a “duty of care” to other drivers. We all are required to drive safely and not cause harm to others.
- Breach – A plaintiff has to prove that the other driver breached the duty of care. In other words, the driver of the other car did something wrong that caused the accident. Breach is an element that insurance companies like to fight. They may even claim that the injured party himself or herself breached the duty of care to the at-fault driver! Breach is highly contested in many cases. Some examples of breach include:
- Running a red light
- Running a stop sign
- Following too closely
- Texting and driving
- Drunk driving
- Reckless driving
- Careless driving
- Driving in the wrong lane
- Going the wrong way on a one-way street
- Causation – To prove causation, one must prove that the breach of duty caused the accident. Another way lawyers say this is to use the “but for” test. In other words, “but for” the other driver breaching the duty of care, the accident would not have happened. If the accident would have happened anyway, then there is no causation. This is another element that insurance companies fight hard. They will come up with all sorts of excuses as to why the other driver did not cause the accident.
- Damages – The last element of being a plaintiff must prove damages. An injured driver must show that he or she has injuries that were caused by the accident. Usually, the injuries being claimed in a car wreck case are physical requiring medical treatment which can include chiropractic, physical therapy, pain management, surgery, or other types of care. Insurance companies spend a lot of time litigating this issue. The best way to prove damages is with medical records. For this reason, it is important for someone injured in an auto accident to go to a doctor and follow the doctor’s advice for treatment. Many times, insurance companies will try to escape responsibility by saying that if the person has injuries, the injuries were caused by some other event. Documentation of injuries is critical to being able to prove an automobile accident case. Other damages can include loss of income, scarring, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional harm such as pain and suffering, .
Proving an automobile accident case takes more than simply showing there was a car wreck and someone was hurt. It requires showing the other driver did something unsafe that caused injury. The job of any trial lawyer is to try to take seemingly difficult legal concepts and translate them into a way that non-lawyers can understand them. Hopefully, this post helps in understanding why what seems to be such a simple concept is actually more complicated in the legal setting.
Contact Stevenson Klotz about Automobile Accident Cases
A Pensacola car accident lawyer may be able to help you file a motor vehicle accident lawsuit against a negligent driver. Contact the Stevenson Klotz law firm in Pensacola, Florida to discuss your case in to see whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.
Following graduation from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, Eric Stevenson held a number of positions including Assistant State Attorney in the First Judicial Circuit of Florida. Eric has been practicing with partner Christopher Klotz since 2015 litigating personal injury and car accidents in Alabama and Florida.