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January 2019

Car Accident Law and the Steps You Should Take Following a Car Accident

By | Personal Injury

Car accident law refers to the legal rules that determine who is responsible for the personal and property damage resulting from a traffic collision.  This area of law includes the principles of negligence, as applied to this specific category of personal injury cases.  Like other cases in which negligence law applies, car accident litigation is governed almost entirely by state law.

Car accident victims in every state must prove the same basic four elements in order to recover compensation.  The four elements are duty, breach, causation and harm.  Drivers have a legal obligation to obey the rules of the road and to operate their vehicles in a reasonable matter.  This includes driving at safe speeds, maintaining control of your vehicle, being aware of your surroundings, observing traffic signals and patterns and using your blinkers and headlights when necessary.

The plaintiff will usually be required to offer evidence that the defendant breached duty.  Breach can be shown by direct evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, traffic surveillance video or an admission of fault.  The plaintiff may need to resort to circumstantial evidence, such as tire marks, damages to the vehicle, paint smudges and scratches or blood alcohol readings.

Even if the defendant had a duty to operate their vehicle and it is shown that the defendant breached that duty, the court will not assume that under those circumstances it was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.   The plaintiff must prove in their medical testimony, that their injuries were due to the crash and did not exist beforehand.

Lastly, the plaintiff must prove harm.  No matter how extreme the other driver’s conduct was behind the wheel, the plaintiff cannot bring a negligence lawsuit unless the conduct produced damage to the plaintiff themselves or their vehicle.  Near miss and close call cases will not qualify.  Once harm is shown, the plaintiff may be entitled for compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages from work and more.

Steps You Should Take Following a Car Accident

The first thing to do after the car accident is to remain silent about who is to blame for the incident.  Admitting fault is the most common mistake people make after they have been involved in an accident.  The rules of evidence do not allow out-of-court statements, otherwise known as hearsay but there is an acceptation for admissions. 

It is important to take photographs and notes of any statements made by the other driver who was involved in the accident.  Gather as much detailed information as possible such as the other drier’s name, address, license plate number, drivers license and insurance information.  Take a photo of any damage done to the car, the nearest buildings, street signs and the area where the accident happened.  If there was a witness present, get their contact information and descriptions of anything they saw.  Call the police to file an accident report.  Ask for a copy of the report for your records and write down the names of the police officers whom you spoke to.

If you are in pain, you should seek medical attention immediately.  This includes whiplash, which may not exhibit any symptoms at first but can flare up at a later date.  As a potential plaintiff in a negligence case, you do not want the other driver’s attorney to discredit the severity of your injuries if you didn’t seek medical treatment right away.

Contacting a personal injury attorney after your accident is critical in helping you get the compensation you deserve.  Call the attorneys at Losi-Gangi today at 716-854-1446 and we will schedule time to discuss your case.