If you were injured in a car accident, your attorney or the insurance adjuster may discuss whether the other driver was negligent in causing your crash. The insurance adjuster could argue that you are not entitled to insurance proceeds because you don’t have proof that the other driver was negligent. But what does negligence really mean, and what do you have to show that proves the other driver was negligent?
The Elements of Negligence in Your Car Accident Case
Negligence means that a person acted in a careless manner that caused someone else’s injuries. A person can be negligent by doing something he should not have done or failing to do something he should have done. If someone is found negligent in a car accident, it gives the injured victim the right to obtain compensation from him. If you are claiming that another driver was negligent and are seeking compensation, your claim needs to show these four elements of negligence:
- Duty of care. You first must prove that the other driver had a duty to exercise reasonable care with regard to your safety. This duty—often referred to as the “duty of reasonable care”—is easily proven because all drivers have an obligation to be careful when they drive.
- Breach of duty. You must next show that the other driver breached his duty to you. This means he failed to act in a way that a reasonably careful person would have acted in a similar situation. This includes stopping at stop lights, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, and not texting while driving.
- Cause of injuries. The negligent driver’s conduct must have caused your injuries. While this is often obvious, it can be the subject of arguments in some cases. For example, if you had a preexisting injury, the insurance adjuster could argue that it—and not your car accident—caused your current condition.
- Amount of damages. This final element includes proving the details of your injuries, your treatment, and your prognosis. You must also show the amount of your medical bills and lost wages, and provide supporting documentation. Your pain and suffering damages may be more difficult to calculate, but an experienced car accident attorney can help you determine what you are entitled to.
Duties of Reasonable Care
The duty of the other driver to act reasonably is a very general concept. Here are some examples of “duties of reasonable care” that every driver is responsible for:
- Not speeding. A driver has a duty to drive at a reasonable, safe speed, which usually means not going over the speed limit. In certain circumstances—such as in foggy, rainy, or icy conditions—a reasonable person would drive at a much slower speed than the posted maximum speed.
- Staying alert. Drivers must be watchful of other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and road hazards at all times. If drivers are talking on a cellphone, texting, or eating or drinking, their minds and hands are not on their driving.
- Keeping control. Drivers are required to have control of their vehicles. They need to be able to stop suddenly and quickly if necessary to avoid an accident or hazard on the road.
- Maintaining the vehicle. Drivers must perform regular maintenance on their vehicles such as replacing worn tires and brakes to ensure these problems are not the cause of a crash.
Both Georgia and South Carolina have traffic laws governing how drivers should behave behind the wheel. Violation of these laws can be used to establish a driver’s negligence. They can also establish a presumption of negligence—when the other driver has to prove he was not negligent. If the other driver was engaging in any of the following activities, it could give rise to a presumption of negligence:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Violating any right-of-way rules such as those requiring motorists to yield to pedestrians
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
Were you injured in a car accident caused by another driver? Let our experienced South Carolina and Georgia car accident attorneys help you get the compensation you deserve. Start an online chat, or call us at 888-795-6261 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your legal options.