In the United States if an injured person wants to receive compensatory damages resulting from an accident, they are going to have to establish who was at fault for the accident. Some accidents, like rear-end collisions, are easier to establish fault than others. Other types of accidents, like those involving hit and run accidents and multiple car accidents, are more challenging to establish.
It is necessary that a party may need to turn to extrinsic evidence, or evidence beyond their own personal recollection, to create a case where another is believed to be at fault. There are many ways this can be obtained and this article will mention some of the more common methods to do so.
However with all accidents the first thing to do is to establish who was negligent, or who fell below an ordinary standard of care. Falling below the standard of care is a fancy way of saying that someone did not behave with the carefulness that we expect from others every day in society.
In auto accidents, to establish a claim for negligence a plaintiff needs to prove:
1. The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff
2. The defendant fell below the standard of care with that duty
3. The defendant was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and
4. Damages that resulted from the injuries.
A duty of care can vary based on the circumstances, but with auto accidents state laws generally expect drivers to pay attention to the road, look out for others drivers, and obey all traffic signals and the rules of the road, among other things. Although it is not dispositive, breaking a traffic law can be some evidence that a person fell below the standard of care on the road. Looking to the traffic code is a great way to build a negligence case.
Another way to see if a duty of care was breached is to get a police report at the scene of the accident. When an auto accident occurs, it is imperative to call for the police in addition to calling for any emergency medical aid. An officer will provide each party with a written report. This report may contain the officer’s opinion on what happened after hearing a recap from each party. Sometimes, an officer may issue a citation based on what happened. These facts can be used as evidence for either party in the case.
Keep in mind that an officer may believe that the injured party contributed to the accident with their negligence. In other words, both parties were careless to some extent in the accident. State laws addressing this issue either use contributory negligence or comparative negligence. This can ultimately reduce or completely bar a plaintiff from recovering money damages for their claim. It is best to consult with a local attorney to assess your particular case.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.