Most people are lucky. They only come into contact with the judicial system when family events occur. We’ve all had to go to the courthouse to obtain copies of birth or death certificates. We may have even have had to deal with probate court after the death of the loved one or with family court for a matter related to a divorce. Because our experience is so limited, we may have no idea what to expect in an accident lawsuit.
While every claim is different, there are several factors that stay pretty much the same. Most accidents involve a legal theory called “negligence.” To win a California negligence case, an accident victim must be able to prove four things: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
The first element of a negligence lawsuit is the existence of a duty. This requires the person bringing the lawsuit to show that the person who injured him or her owed a duty of reasonable care. California law places a legal duty on everyone to use “ordinary care or skill” in managing “his or her property or person.” California traffic laws also require drivers to follow certain laws designed to avoid personal injury and property damage to others.
The second element of a typical accident lawsuit is known as breach. This means that the victim who was injured must be able to prove that the person sued failed to act as a reasonable person would have done in the same or similar circumstances. This is often done by showing that the person who was responsible for the crash violated a law, leading to the crash.
Next, the crash victim must be able to show that the breach of the duty caused the crash. To do this, the victim must show that the breach was a substantial factor in causing the crash. For example, if the person being sued ran a stop sign just before the accident and that is what caused the crash, this element will be met. However, if running the stop sign was not a substantial factor in causing the crash, this element will not be met. Causation can be very hard to prove without the assistance of an attorney with significant experience in serious accident cases.
The final factor in a negligence lawsuit is called “damages.” To prove this part of the case, the victim must be able to show that he or she suffered somehow as a result of the crash. Examples of damages include injuries to the person’s body, damage to the person’s car, the payment of medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
To be successful in an accident case grounded in negligence, the injured party must be able to prove all four of these elements.
Accident lawsuits may also involve other legal theories that require the injured person to prove different elements to win. For example, if a defective vehicle or vehicle part is to blame for the crash, an experienced lawyer will also sue the manufacturer under a legal theory known as “strict liability.” Many different people or entities may be sued, and it is your lawyer’s job to evaluate your case thoroughly and to identify every person or entity who may have been responsible for the damages you suffered.
If you or a family member have been wrongfully injured in an accident, call us at 888.777.1776 or use our online contact form. Delays can hurt your case, so please don't wait.