After you have been in a car accident, you probably have a strong opinion about who was at fault. Yet, there is a difference between knowing what happened and proving negligence.
To get the compensation you need as fast as possible, you must build a strong case for negligence that will stand up in negotiations and even in court, in case going to trial becomes necessary. Otherwise, you could face a huge financial burden on your own.
To give yourself the best chance of success, take advice from a Hartford personal injury attorney who has recovered fast results for previous clients. He or she can explain how to build a case for negligence that will give you the best possible chance of securing a fair settlement.
In this article, we will share some fascinating insights from Hartford legal experts about how to prove negligence in car accident cases. We will show you the steps involved and how to negotiate the tricky issue of shared liability.
Defining Negligence in Connecticut
In everyday life, negligence means failing to take proper care when doing something – either by action or inaction. The legal concept of negligence is slightly more complex, though.
Legally, at the heart of “negligence” is a failure to exercise a proper level of care towards others as a reasonable person would be expected to. Failing to exercise a proper level of care goes further than what a person did. It also includes what he or she should have done but failed to do.
What is a reasonable person?
Another complicating factor is the idea of a “reasonable person.” When determining liability, the question is raised: ”What would a reasonable person have done in that situation?” In law, this standard applies to everyone, regardless of his or her level of experience or personal situation.
These gray areas are where the legal expertise and experience of fast-working Hartford personal injury lawyers come to the fore. It is their role to paint a picture of what a “reasonable person” would have done to prove that the defendant was indeed negligent in contributing to the car accident.
Negligence means that a reasonable person failed to take appropriate action. Experienced attorneys can draw on their training and past cases to build a strong claim showing that the defendant breached his or her responsibilities in this way.
Connecticut is an at-fault state
Unlike its neighbors, New York and Massachusetts, Connecticut governs car insurance coverage on an at-fault basis.
Therefore, if you get in a Connecticut car accident caused by someone else, you have the right to recover compensation from the at-fault party – or parties. This is different from no-fault states, in which you must first turn to your own insurance company to cover your personal injury expenses.
How does our state’s rule affect your case? Find out from a Hartford personal injury attorney who can also guide you through the process of seeking compensation. At Gould Injury Law, for one, we want to see you get your money as fast as possible by putting local law to work for you.
Examples of negligence on the road
Classic examples of negligence on the road include:
- Speeding: This is about more than just going over the speed limit. In Connecticut, speeding includes driving at a velocity that puts the life of any vehicle occupant in danger.
- Failing to obey traffic signals: Running a red light or stop sign is negligent road behavior, which can lead to serious personal injuries.
- Distracted driving: In 2022, almost 5,200 crashes in Connecticut were caused by distracted driving. The most common factor among these collisions was using electronic devices – often texting.
While these are three of the most common forms of negligence in car accident cases, they are by no means the only factors. An experienced Hartford personal injury lawyer may be able to identify other reasons for negligence allegations in your case.
Is it ever “just an accident”?
Most drivers do not want to cause an accident. However, on the road, good intentions are not always enough. When negligent actions caused the accident, and thereby inflicted subsequent injuries and property damage, then that negligent party is responsible in the eyes of the law. This means that he or she is also responsible for paying financial compensation to accident victims.
It is possible that two people could simultaneously act in an equally negligent manner. However, sometimes, one or more persons are found to be more liable than other parties involved in the case at hand.
Through negotiations, personal injury lawyers and insurance companies can usually come to an agreement on the level of liability to assign to each party. If they cannot agree, the case may have to go to court.
How to Prove Negligence
To prove negligence, a personal injury attorney must gather evidence to satisfy four legal requirements. Unless each requirement is proven, there will be no chance of recovering compensation.
1. You were owed a duty of care
We are required to drive our vehicles in a way that will not injure other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians. Every time anyone gets behind the wheel, he or she accepts this duty of care toward other road users.
Legally, the first point you must prove is that, just by being on the road, the other party (or parties) had a duty of care toward you. Of all the four points a personal injury attorney must prove, this is usually the simplest one when dealing with a car accident case.
Sometimes, though, the concept of negligence is complicated by outside factors. For example, a driver may claim that another road user distracted him or her, trying to shift the blame onto someone else. Or he or she may claim that the road conditions, weather, or other factors were at play.
Expert tip: Gather evidence at the scene
To counter arguments against your claim, we recommend gathering as much evidence as possible. Ideally, you should take photos and notes at the scene. These can help your personal injury attorney, even if hired later, to understand what actually happened and who the liable party is.
2. The defendant’s negligence breached the duty of care
The breach of the duty of care is probably the single most important element in proving negligence. You must clearly show that the liable party either acted negligently or failed to take needed action.
This could involve:
- Changing lanes dangerously
- Driving too fast
- Playing a game while driving
- Making a dangerous or illegal maneuver
To prove this, we must return to the standard of reasonable care. What would a reasonable person have done in the same situation? If you can demonstrate that a reasonable person would not have acted as the liable party did, then you are well on your way to proving liability.
Expert tip: Obtain the police report
In the City of Hartford, you can request police reports online from the Police Records Division. You can try to obtain this report and bring it to your free initial consultation with a personal injury law firm – or your attorney, once hired, can obtain the report on your behalf.
3. Negligence caused your injuries
You have proved the defendant was there and had a duty of care. You must also prove that he or she acted negligently. However, your next challenge is to demonstrate a clear, undeniable link between that person’s negligence and your injuries, property damage, or other losses.
Under the law, there are two elements to causation: (1) cause-in-fact and (2) proximate cause. You must prove both types of causation to win a car accident case.
Cause-in-fact seeks to answer the question: If the defendant had not been present, would the harm have occurred?
Whether or not the person intended to cause harm is irrelevant. Cause-in-fact demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that if the person had not been there, the losses would not have been incurred.
“Proximate cause” is harder to define than the fact-based “cause-in-fact.” Determining proximate cause calls for looking at what set the car accident in motion, and it is not always easy to prove.
For example, imagine you are walking along the sidewalk, and a vehicle mounts the curb and strikes you. It seems pretty obvious that the collision was the cause of your injuries, and this could be the cause-in-fact. However, if that vehicle only mounted the curb because it was struck by a speeding truck, the case would be more complicated.
In this example, the speeding truck would be the proximate cause. However, the onus would be on you and your personal injury attorney to prove that.
Examples like this demonstrate how complex proving causation can be. It is not unusual for several parties to share liability for one car accident. The good news is that even if you are partly responsible, it may still be possible to make a personal injury claim in Connecticut.
Expert tip: Seek medical attention
To prove a clear link between your car accident and injuries, seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. Accident victims do not always have symptoms that show up immediately. However, if you fail to seek prompt medical care, it may be tough to prove that your injuries were caused by your accident.
Medical reports and the testimony of medical professionals can form crucial evidence in determining negligence. So do not jeopardize your chance of obtaining proper compensation by delaying in seeking medical care.
4. Negligence caused your losses
Finally, you must prove that the at-fault party caused you financial losses so you are entitled to damages.
The purpose of damages is to make a person whole again or to restore what he or she has lost. Some damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, are easy to calculate. Future financial losses are more tricky to assess.
Future financial losses include the loss of earning potential and future medical expenses. A fast-working personal injury attorney will be prepared to consult medical professionals and financial experts to assist in calculating the full extent of these losses.
Other non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life, are harder to work out. That said, an experienced lawyer makes these kinds of calculations day in and day out. With qualified legal counsel on your side, you can feel confident you have a better chance of securing a fast and fair settlement.
Expert tip: Gather evidence of losses
To help your personal injury lawyer pursue justice as fast as possible, gather as much documentary evidence as you can.
This includes evidence, such as:
- Medical bills
- Correspondence from your employer
- Repair bills for your vehicle
- Other bills resulting from property damage
The more evidence you can gather, the faster your personal injury lawyer can get to work.
When There is More Than One Liable Party
When several people share liability for a car crash, it can be hard to know who to sue. Each case is unique, and a Hartford car accident lawyer is best placed to answer your questions.
At your free consultation, he or she will listen carefully. After evaluating your options, the experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you on the best legal avenue to pursue fast results.
What if I am partly responsible?
Car accidents are often complicated and involve negligent acts by one or more parties. In Connecticut, this situation is covered by modified comparative negligence laws.
Put simply, comparative fault laws allow all accident victims to file personal injury claims and seek to recover compensation. If you were more than 50 percent liable, though, you would not be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit in Connecticut.
How personal liability affects your compensation
While it is great that you can recover compensation even when you are 50 percent liable, personal liability still affects the amount of compensation you take home.
For example, let’s say you were involved in an accident along with 3 other drivers. You were judged to be 25 percent responsible for the accident. In this scenario, the maximum compensation you could receive would be 25 percent of the total you would have received if you had not been responsible at all.
This raises many concerns, including how liability is determined and whether it is worth pursuing compensation. The best way to address these is to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Hartford personal injury lawyer. He or she will listen carefully to learn the unique circumstances of your car accident and be able to provide you with tailored legal advice.
Pursue Justice Faster With Gould Injury Law’s Help
Satisfying the four legal requirements to prove negligence takes legal expertise, experience, and tenacity. If you get it right, you can build a strong personal injury case that may result in a fair settlement. However, if you try to go it alone, you may get bogged down and struggle to hold the responsible parties to account.
At Gould Injury Law, we do not simply hang around. As soon as you hire us, we work fast to gather evidence and build strong cases with the goal of getting faster justice for you.
Talk to one of our experienced Hartford personal injury attorneys today. Call us at 888-WIN-FAST or reach out online, and we will arrange a free initial consultation fast.