Whenever one person acts carelessly, causing someone else an injury or property damage, the responsible party can be held liable via the legal premise of “negligence.” If you have been in a car accident and the other driver acted carelessly (for example, by speeding, running a red light, or texting while driving) you may be able to recover damages for your injuries.
Negligence can either be an affirmative act (running a red light, speeding, driving aggressively), or it can be passive (failing to stop for a pedestrian, failing to put on one’s headlights at night, failing to clear snow off one’s car properly). When a driver is not reasonably careful, and causes injury or wrongful death, the injured party (or estate or decedent) can seek damages for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, loss of consortium, and loss of companionship.
There are four “elements” to a negligence lawsuit—this means that there are four separate things that a plaintiff must establish in court to prove that the defendant was negligent. The plaintiff must show: (1) that the defendant had a duty to be reasonably careful; (2) that the defendant breached that duty; (3) that the breach of duty caused the plaintiff harm; and (4) that the plaintiff suffered injury or property damage.
In more detail:
Drivers have an obligation to be careful when encountering anyone on the road, including other drivers and pedestrians. Some specific examples of duties that all drivers have are:
- Driving at a reasonable rate of speed for the weather conditions. Even if a driver is going the speed limit, they could still be considered negligent if it is icy, dark, foggy, or where one could expect that children are playing in the area.
- Staying alert. Drivers are expected to be vigilant for items in the road, other vehicles, pedestrians, and road hazards.
- Maintaining one’s vehicle. Drivers have a duty to ensure that their tires are not worn out, that their lights are working properly, and that their brakes are tuned up. In other words, drivers have an affirmative obligation to ensure that their vehicle is in proper working order.
- Maintaining control of one’s vehicle. Drivers must keep their car under control. If a person’s car flips over, or skips the median, negligence could potentially be inferred because it indicates that they were not maintaining control (such as if they fell asleep or were distracted while driving).
When a person is not careful, they “breached” the duty of care. In determining what sort of conduct is negligent, the law asks whether the person acted like a reasonable person would have behaved in the same, or similar, circumstances.
For example, if a person was driving the speed limit of 65 miles per hour, but it was sleeting, dark, and they had worn out tires, then got into an accident, one would not say that they breached their duty of care, because they were not acting as a reasonably prudent person would in those same circumstances.
A plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s conduct caused their injuries. If a person skidded off the road to avoid a deer and crashed with another car (and that other car driver just happened to be drunk), the drunk driver could not be held liable, because their intoxication did not cause the injured driver’s injuries—the deer did.
If a person is involved in a wreck with a negligent driver, but their car sustained no damages, they are not injured, and they did not lose any time at work, they will not be able to recover damages—because they did not sustain any.
Columbia Car Accident Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Fight Hard for Injured Victims
The Columbia car accident lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. provide skilled representation to victims of car accidents caused by negligence. To learn more how we can help, call us today at 803-929-3600 or contact us online. While no legal settlement can change what happened, we can help you reclaim your life and move forward after your accident.
With six office locations throughout South Carolina, our attorneys proudly represent injured victims and their families throughout the state, including Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout the counties of Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Charleston County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Spartanburg County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.