The Elements of Your Claim
To bring a successful car accident claim, you’ll need to establish that each of the necessary elements is present. These elements include:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care – or had a responsibility to facilitate your safe passage. When we drive, we have an immense responsibility regarding the safety of everyone on the road with us, which means this element is usually a given.
- The other driver breached the duty of care they owed you. If the driver whom you cite as being at fault for your car accident engaged in any kind of negligent driving practice, it amounts to a breached duty of care.
- The other driver’s wrongdoing was the direct cause of the accident that left you injured. Driver negligence in and of itself does not satisfy this element – the driver’s negligence must have led to the accident in question. As a result of the accident at the heart of your claim, you suffered damages – or losses – that the law recognizes.
In their focused efforts to build your strongest car accident claim, your trusted car accident lawyer will help you establish the presence of each of these essential elements.
The Other Driver’s Negligence
Distracted drivers’ minds are elsewhere, and they don’t pay adequate attention to the road ahead. Distractions can include eating and drinking, grooming, having phone conversations, having conversations with vehicle occupants, and much more. However, the most alarming distraction – according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)– is texting, which manages to weave all three categories of distraction into one life-threatening activity. Distractions break down into the following categories:
- Activities that engage one’s hands, such as holding your phone and typing out a text
- Activities that engage one’s thoughts, such as reading or composing a text
- Activities that engage one’s vision, such as looking at your phone while you text
When a motorist who is flying down the road at highway speeds reads or writes a text, the average of 5 seconds that it takes translates to driving with their eyes and thoughts off the road for about the length of a football field, which is an immense amount of distraction.
When motorists speed, things are far more likely to go wrong for all the following reasons:
- They decrease the amount of time they have to react to forward dangers.
- They increase the odds that an accident will happen and increase the odds that the accident will be very serious.
- They increase the stopping distance they need while decreasing the stopping distance they have.
- They increase the risks associated with inclement weather, poorly maintained roads, and other factors that make our roads more dangerous overall.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares that drowsy drivers represent a major problem on our roadways and that the consequences are often tragic. Drowsy driving is usually caused by not getting enough sleep, but it can also be caused by any of the following:
- sleep disorders that go untreated
- the effects of certain medications, which can be exacerbated by alcohol
- irregular sleeping schedules, such as those shift workers often experience
The effects of drowsy driving are akin to the effects of being under the influence of alcohol and include:
- a decreased attention span
- slowed reaction times
- poor decision making
Any one of these can prove deadly behind the wheel, and the problem is more prevalent than you may realize. In fact, 4 percent of adults surveyed in various states across the country report having fallen momentarily asleep behind the wheel in the 30 days prior.
Aggressive drivers make it their practice to render our roadways more dangerous for all of us. When you see a motorist barreling toward you while zipping dangerously in and out of lanes, you recognize the aggression. While speeding through traffic is the hallmark of dangerous aggression behind the wheel, aggression can play out in a range of different ways that are often employed in multiples, including the following examples:
- ignoring the rules of the road, including refusing to yield the right-of-way
- passing illegally, including pulling onto the shoulder to pass
- attempting to engage other motorists by haranguing them – sometimes taking it as far as tapping other vehicles
- flying through road construction
- speeding ahead with little interest in traffic’s flow
- driving too close to the side of other vehicles
- honking the horn or flashing the headlights incessantly
Aggressive drivers are dangerous drivers, and if you spy one in your midst, the safest policy is allowing them all the space on the road you can and alerting the authorities to the risk they pose as soon as it is safe for you to do so.
The next element in a car accident claim is establishing that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident that left you injured. This is where having a seasoned car accident lawyer in your corner can prove invaluable. Your lawyer will engage in all the following primary tasks to help ensure that the other driver’s fault is clearly demonstrated in your claim:
- Gathering all the available evidence, which generally means photos and videos taken at the scene, physical evidence from the scene, and the police report
- Gathering statements from eyewitnesses at the scene
- Having accident recreation models crafted that succinctly reflect the circumstances involved
- Hiring expert witnesses with the knowledge base to bolster your claim
- Compiling all the available evidence, information, and testimony into your strongest claim
Proving the other driver’s negligence may be well beyond the scope of what you can accomplish without professional legal counsel on your side.
Outlining Your Legal Damages
Finally, you’ll need to demonstrate the extent of losses – or legal damages – you experienced as a result of the other motorist’s wrongdoing. Unless every category of covered loss you endure is accounted for, you can expect your recovery to be far more challenging.
Property Damage to Your Car
A serious car accident can leave you seriously injured, and the medical bills you experience as a result can be immense. Further, if your injuries develop complications or lead to secondary medical conditions, you can expect these costs to stretch into your future.
Serious injuries tend to mean extended recoveries and a corresponding decrease in earnings. When you couple this loss with your mounting medical bills, the financial effects can be devastating.
Pain and Suffering
If you’ve suffered an injury, you’re experiencing physical pain, which slows you down and makes everything more difficult. It’s important, however, to also factor in your emotional suffering, which can be one of the most challenging losses you face.
The Involved Insurance Company
You’ve suffered an injury by another driver’s negligence, and as a result, you’ll file your car accident claim with their insurance provider. It can be disheartening to discover, however, that the insurance company may be more interested in padding its own profits than in providing you with fair compensation. Insurance companies are proficient at minimizing settlements, and there are a few tried-and-true techniques they’re likely to employ that you should be on the lookout for, including:
Early Settlement Offer
If the insurance company offers you an early settlement, it may be an attempt to finalize your claim before there is a full account of your complete losses. It’s always in your best interest to consult with a skilled car accident lawyer before accepting a settlement from the insurance company.
If the insurance company denies your claim with not much more than a cursory glance, it may be trying to pull one over on you. The law ultimately determines the validity and value of car accident claims – not insurance companies.
Shift in Focus
If the insurance company attempts to convince you that the accident was your fault – not their policyholder’s – you’ll turn to the evidence that indicates otherwise as well as the other information including in your solid car accident claim. Further, even if you do share some of the blame for the car accident that causes you to be injured, you can seek compensation for the percentage of fault that the other driver is responsible for in the State of California.
Denial of Loss
The insurance company may deny that your losses are as extensive as you say they are. This is another instance when having a solid claim that clearly demonstrates your complete physical, financial, and emotional losses is critical, and a knowledgeable car accident lawyer can help you with that.
Prolonging the Process
It is important to know what to expect when you bring a car accident claim. For instance, you can count on the process being long and complicated but can also rely on your car accident lawyer to move your claim effectively and efficiently forward. If the insurance company takes it upon itself to make the process even more complicated, even lengthier, or both, it’s likely an attempt to push you into accepting a lowball settlement offer out of financial desperation – in the face of immense medical bills and waning earnings. The fact is, however, that there are important laws in place that set forth good faith practices that the insurance industry must adhere to, and your accomplished lawyer has the know-how to hold them to these standards.
How Your Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
Your focused car accident lawyer will tackle all the following in defense of your claim:
- communicating with the insurance company so you don’t have to – insurance companies are skilled at obtaining client statements that damage claims
- capably negotiating with the insurance company for fair terms that support your rights
- preparing to take your case to court in the event the insurance company doesn’t resolve your claim fairly