Being injured by another driver’s negligence is a terrifying event that can leave you seriously injured. Reaching your fullest recovery is likely to hinge directly on whether or not you are able to recover fully from the physical, financial, and emotional damages you suffer. The most important element of your car accident claim is proving the other driver’s negligence in the matter, and one of the most important steps you can take to help ensure that you are successful in this endeavor is working closely with a dedicated car accident attorney.
The Elements of Your Claim
In order to bring a successful car accident claim, there are four components – or legal elements – that must be present.
You Are Owed a Duty of Care
To begin, the other party must have owed you a duty of care. While this may sound odd, the fact is that every time we take to the road in our vehicles, we owe everyone else with whom we share the road a duty of care (or responsibility) that includes proceeding safely and with due caution that allows the safe passage of others in our midst. As such, the other driver involved in the car accident – by definition – owes you a duty of care, and this element of your claim is satisfied.
The Duty of Care Owed You Was Breached
The second element of your car accident claim is that the other driver breached the duty of care that he or she owed you. This means that if the other motorist engaged in negligent or otherwise dangerous driving practice, he or she breached the duty of care that he or she owed you. Driver negligence – which often comes in the form of failing to carefully follow the rules of the road, distraction behind the wheel, impairment behind the wheel, drowsy driving, and/or excess speed – is generally at the heart of car accident claims.
Your Were Injured as a Direct Result
Additionally, the other driver’s negligence must have been the direct cause of the dangerous accident that left you injured. While a drunk driver is – by every standard – a negligent driver, the element of his or her negligence being directly responsible for the injury-causing accident is not met if the drunk driver did not directly cause or contribute to the accident that left you injured. If, on the other hand, the drunk driver slammed into you when you came to a safe stop at a stop sign, the drunk driver’s negligence can be identified as being the cause of your injury-inducing accident.
You Suffered Actual Damages
In order to bring a successful car accident claim against the at-fault driver, you must have suffered actual damages, which is the legal term for losses and which can come in the form of property damage to your vehicle, medical expenses, lost earnings on the job, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.
The Other Driver’s Negligence
The bulk of all car accidents are caused by driver negligence, which is important to identify, but that can be difficult to prove. There are many kinds of driver negligence, and each type presents its own dangerous risks.
An important element of driving safely is paying close attention to the road ahead and not allowing oneself to become distracted by anything other than the important task at hand. While distractions come in an endless array of forms, texting and other smartphone activities are the deadliest of all.
When a driver sets about writing or reading a text, it takes an average of five seconds to do so, and in these five seconds, he or she can travel the length of a football field (when driving at highway speeds). The thought of a motorist who is oblivious to what is going on around him or her for the length of a football field is just as dangerous as you would imagine.
We have all seen the ad campaigns, the billboards, and the statistics that tell us exactly how dangerous drunk drivers are. Unfortunately, however, there are all too many drivers out there who fail to take this important message to heart. Drunk drivers continue to roam our roads; they suffer serious cognitive, physical, and even sensory impairments; and they make our roadways far less safe for everyone on them.
Motorists are not only responsible for adhering to all posted speed limits but are also required to take the condition of the roads they are on and what is happening on those roads into careful consideration in the determination of safe driving speeds. Factors such as the following all require motorists to slow down:
Debris on the road
The effects of bad weather
A foreword accident
An animal on the road
Motorists who drive too fast make accidents more likely. They also, however, increase the risk that the accidents in question will be deadly, which makes drivers who speed excessively some of the most dangerous drivers out there. In the end, speed plays a significant role in far too many tragic car accident statistics.
Drowsy driving does not get the degree of attention that it deserves in relation to dangerous car accidents. In fact, motorists who would never get behind the wheel after a drink or two are often less concerned about getting behind the wheel while under the influence of exhaustion. The fact is, however, that drowsy drivers suffer some of the same physical and cognitive impairments that drunk drivers do, making drowsy driving an especially dangerous practice.
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Proving Driver Negligence
Sometimes, the other driver’s negligence in the car accident that leaves you injured is very clear, and sometimes, it is more difficult to prove. There are several basic sources that generally come into play when it comes to proving the other driver's negligence in a car accident claim.
The Police Report
If you are involved in a car accident of any magnitude, it is very likely that it will generate a police report (written by one of the attending officers at the scene). If the police report identifies who is at fault in the matter, this report can go a long way toward bolstering your claim. The fact of the matter is, however, that the police report is not always accurate, and if the report that corresponds with your accident does not support your claim, it is not the final word on the matter.
The officer at the scene is busy attempting to ensure that the accident is cleared away as swiftly as possible and that safety is restored, so his or her account of the accident may be more or less accurate. In the end, if there is a police report, it will play a role in your claim, which means that you are going to need to address it one way or another. While this is a complicated task, your experienced car accident attorney is well equipped to tackle it.
Evidence at the Scene
Ultimately, car accident cases often hinge on evidence that is collected at the scene. If you are able to do so, you can actively participate in this process. If you are not, however, you can generally count on others at the scene to help you out. Such evidence can include:
Eyewitness accounts from bystanders at the scene
Pictures of the accident taken from every angle and every perspective (you never know what will ultimately prove useful, and you cannot take too many pictures and/or videos)
Pictures of your injuries
Pictures that depict any extenuating circumstances at the scene that may have contributed to the accident
An account – in your own words – of exactly how the accident happened (jotted down or recorded as soon after the accident as possible)
Your Car Accident Attorney’s Role
It is your car accident attorney’s job to gather and compile all the relevant evidence in your claim, and because no two accident claims are ever exactly alike, yours will proceed according to the circumstances involved. Sometimes, for example, accident reconstructions may be required, and expert testimony can also play an important role in proving the other driver’s fault in the car accident that caused you to be injured. Looking to your attorney to establish the other motorist’s fault in the matter is the best course of action when fault is not perfectly clear from the outset. Proving fault often amounts to fitting a puzzle of evidence together, which is a complicated task that is best left in the capable hands of your skilled car accident attorney.
The value of your car accident claim relates directly to the degree of your damages. The more serious your injuries, the more difficult your recovery is likely to be, and your compensation should reflect this fact.
Your Medical Bills
A major component of your damages is your medical expenses. The more serious your injuries, the higher these costs are going to be, and if your medical needs are ongoing and/or lead to secondary conditions, you can expect these expenses to increase considerably. The most important point to make is that your healthcare costs should be well represented in your car accident claim – in order to provide you with your best opportunity to fully recover. Common medical expenses after a serious car accident include:
Emergency care at the scene of the accident and emergency transportation from the scene of the accident
Surgical care and follow-up care
Medical procedures, tests, and treatments
Medical care from doctors, specialists, therapists, and other medical professionals
Physical and/or occupational therapy
Home health care
Adaptive physical devices
Another important financial concern after a car accident is the lost earnings you experience, which is common to accidents requiring lengthy recovery periods. If your injuries interfere with your ability to continue performing your job at the same level and/or to continue advancing your career over time, you can also experience a decrease in your earning potential that can prove financially devastating. Another important issue is that our jobs often play a pivotal role in how we experience ourselves in the world, and a serious career blow can prove as emotionally devastating as it is financially.
Physical and Emotional Pain and Suffering
Being physically injured is obviously physically painful, but it can also be extremely emotionally painful. A serious car accident can upend your life and your future in the proverbial blink of an eye, and facing the fact that someone else’s negligence is at the root of your losses can be an exceptionally difficult pill to swallow. The abject terror associated with being injured in a violent car accident can also be emotionally scarring, including psychological effects like the following:
Emotional lability that can include crying jags
Increased anxiety, which can lead to panic attacks
Severe mood swings and other mood disturbances
Sleep disturbances that can include night terrors
A tendency to self-isolate and push others away
Fear of driving
Loss of appetite
One of the harshest emotional effects of a serious car accident is that these symptoms can build a wall between yourself and the friends, family members, and loved ones who make up your support system – just when you could use their support the most.
Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Car Accident Attorney Today
If you have been injured by another driver’s negligence, you need a powerful car accident attorney on your side, and Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – fits the bill nicely. Mr. Pritchard understands the gravity of your situation and is committed to skillfully advocating for your claim’s optimal outcome. Your claim is important, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today to learn more about what we can do to help you.