Proving negligence after being injured in a car crash: Part I

Automobile accidents can have any number of causes and contributing factors – some obvious and others hidden. While assigning blame for an auto accident is not always necessary in many states (considered “no-fault” states), it is necessary here in Tennessee.

As we wrote in a post last month, determining fault is a key component affecting a crash victim’s potential insurance payout as well as any payouts related to a personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury suits also require plaintiffs to prove that other parties were negligent. In this week’s posts, we’ll discuss in greater detail what is generally required to prove negligence in a legal action.

There are typically five elements to establishing negligence and liability after an injury. Some of these are so intuitive and closely related that it can be difficult to conceptually split them apart. But because details are so crucial in any given case, it is important to understand each of these elements on its own.

Element #1: The defendant owed a duty of care. Whenever each of us gets behind the wheel, we owe a duty of care to all other travelers on the road. This basically means that you need to reasonably protect the safety of others by engaging in certain actions (staying in your lane, for example) and refraining from engaging in other actions (drunk driving, etc.).

Element #2: The defendant breached (or failed to fulfill) their duty of care. This means that the person you are blaming for the crash did not live up to their expected duty of care. They may have been speeding, texting, impaired or otherwise driving recklessly.

Element #3: The accident/injuries occurred because of the defendant’s breach of duty. You were injured in an accident that can be traced back to the defendant’s failure to drive in a reasonable and safe manner.

Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion, including the final two elements needed to prove negligence after a motor vehicle accident.