Even if a car accident injury victim has never had any contact with the legal system, they understand the basic premise that the other driver must have been “at fault” at least to some degree to justify financial recovery in a Kentucky personal injury lawsuit. However, the actual legal standard for imposing liability in a civil action arising out of a motor vehicle collision may be based on a range of conduct. Because most people do not routinely deal with the civil litigation process, our Louisville personal injury lawyers have provided an overview of the basic issues involved in seeking compensation for injuries or the loss of a loved one in a motor vehicle accident. A car accident victim must establish the following elements to recover damages in a personal injury claim:
- Legal Duty of Care: The plaintiff must establish that the other driver or third party owed the injury victim a duty of care. This is usually not an issue in motor vehicle accident claims because motorists owe a duty to other drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians to drive safely so that they do not cause injury to others.
- Negligent Conduct: This element of a negligence action for damages often constitutes the focus of a personal injury claim. In broad terms, a driver’s conduct is negligent if the driver fails to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others to prevent foreseeable harm. This is typically established by proving the driver violated a traffic safety law or drove in a lawful but unsafe fashion. When a driver engages in unlawful driving conduct that is a substantial factor in causing a collision, the driver who committed the traffic offense will be presumed to have been negligent based on the legal principle of “negligence per se.”
- Causation: Even when a driver clearly engages in unsafe driving behavior, this will not necessarily support liability because the hazardous driving practice or traffic violation may not have been the cause of the accident. A driver may have been reading a text message in violation of Kentucky’s ban on texting while driving but still have driven flawlessly. The mere fact that the driver was engaged in an unlawful practice or that the motorist was driving in an unsafe manner will not justify imposing liability if the conduct was not a cause of the collision. While the unsafe driving exhibited by the other driver does not have to be the only cause, it must have contributed to the collision for the driver to be liable for damages.
- Harm: Negligence claims can only be successful if the party bringing the legal action can establish that harm has been suffered in terms of vehicle damage, other damage to property, emotional distress, physical injury or wrongful death. This will not be an issue in most car accident lawsuits, but insurance companies do routinely dispute the severity of injury suffered by a personal injury victim. When the negligent conduct of the other driver is fairly apparent, the existence and/or severity of damages often will be the focus of the insurance carrier’s defense.
An experienced Louisville auto accident lawyer will analyze evidence like the law enforcement accident report, witness accounts, vehicle damage, medical records, physical evidence like skid marks and other evidence to establish these necessary elements of a personal injury claim. Some of this evidence will be obtained through the discovery process that allows the parties in a civil lawsuit to obtain statements, admission, answers to questions, depositions, relevant documents and other forms of evidence from the other party.
If you are involved in a Louisville car crash, our Louisville auto collision attorneys at Murphy and Associates are committed to obtaining compensation for those who are injured by negligent and reckless drivers. If you or a family member suffers serious injury or a loved one dies in a traffic accident, we invite you to call us for a free initial consultation at (502) 205-2097 to learn how we can help!