Negligence in Car Accidents

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September 24, 2017
Edward Smith


Negligence in Car Accidents

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno car accident attorney. When you are in a car accident, the term negligence is often heard. It is important to know about negligence before you sit down with your lawyer to discuss who is at fault and how you will be able to collect damages.

What Is Negligence?

Negligence occurs when a driver fails to behave in a way that a prudent person would by exercising a duty of care to keep others safe from a predictable or foreseeable injury. This is the case when a driver fails to stop at a red light and enters an intersection illegally because he or she is distracted. Simple negligence is accidental. In contrast, criminal negligence is different in that it represents a gross deviation from the standard of care with the intent or the willful decision to cause harm to another.

Recklessness, such as speeding or drunk driving, is also a negligent act, since the driver should know that such activity will result in harm to other motorists, pedestrians or bicyclists. However, reckless behavior involves a choice to do something that could cause harm to others.

There are other forms of negligence such as comparative negligence. California is a pure comparative negligence state where the degree of compensation a driver can receive is based on the extent of the negligence that defendant is liable for. For example, if an injured driver is 40 percent liable for an accident, he or she will still be able to collect 60 percent of expenses due to their injuries.

Violation of the Rules of the Road

Over time, traffic laws and other regulations have evolved to keep people safe. By violating such laws, a motorist is considered to be negligent. Let’s say, a motorist is traveling on a freeway at a speed well above the designated limit. If a sudden traffic slowdown occurs and the speeding motorist is unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the car in front, the motorist would be considered to be negligent.

Another example might be a motorcyclist who defies state law and refuses to wear a helmet. If another vehicle hit the motorcycle, chances are probable the biker will suffer traumatic brain injury. Since the biker was not obeying the helmet law, some of the liability of the accident will be his or hers despite the motorist hitting the bike. In this case, the biker would need to show that the resulting brain damage was not caused by the lack of a helmet.

Proximate Cause or Cause-In-Fact

There are two main types of causation in negligence. Causation is a link between an action that is considered to be negligent and the injury a plaintiff suffers. Proximate causation occurs when the injury is plainly caused by the action. Cause-in-fact is when an injury would not have happened if the act of negligence did not occur. Usually, both need to be satisfied to establish negligence.

Four Elements of Negligence

There are four elements of negligence when considering a motor vehicle accident:

  • Duty: In this, a driver is expected to drive in such a way as to keep others on the road safe. This means obeying all traffic laws, including those involving pedestrians.
  • Breach of reasonable care: When a motorist fails to drive in a reasonably safe manner, he or she is breaching their duty to other motorists. For example, a motorist who does not keep an adequate distance from other vehicles or who does not stop at a traffic sign is breaching their responsibility to others.
  • The breach caused another person’s injury: This seems fairly straightforward since, if an accident occurs and a person has an injury afterward, it is reasonable to say the accident caused it. However, the person who was injured must prove, under most circumstances, that the injury did not pre-date the accident. In some cases, it is sufficient to say the accident was the proximate cause of the injury.
  • The accident caused loss: Compensation after a motor vehicle accident is provided for medical expenses, lost wages, damage to property and pain and suffering. Regardless of the type of loss, it must be provable. Alternately, if no loss occurred due to the accident, the plaintiff may be unable to collect damages.

Fresno Car Accident Attorney

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno car accident attorney. If you have been hurt in an automobile accident due to someone’s negligence or if a member of your family was killed by a negligent driver, I am available to give you friendly advice without charge. Just call me at (559) 377-7676 in Fresno or (800) 404-5400.

I have helped California clients, including those who live in Fresno, as an injury lawyer to obtain just compensation for wrongful deaths and traumatic injuries.

If you are interested in the way I have resolved cases in the past, visit my Verdicts and Settlements page.

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