HOW DO CAR ACCIDENT CLAIMS WORK?
Last year, 60,473 traffic accidents were reported in Kansas. With so many occurring each year, car accidents are one of the most likely lawsuits an individual will be involved in. When an accident occurs, it is extremely important to gather information about the parties involved as soon as possible—generally at the scene of the accident. This is vital to ensure redress can be sought from those responsible. Below is an overview of when liability attaches and other important considerations for claims arising out of car accidents.
Proving negligence in a car accident case typically involves demonstrating that one party (the defendant) failed to exercise reasonable care while driving, which directly resulted in the accident and the resulting damages. To establish negligence, you generally need to show four key elements:
Duty of Care: You must demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty of care to other road users, including the plaintiff (the injured party). This duty of care is a legal obligation to operate a motor vehicle in a safe and responsible manner.
Breach of Duty: You need to prove that the defendant breached their duty of care by not acting as a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances. This involves showing that the defendant's actions or omissions fell below the standard of care expected on the road.
Causation: You must establish a causal link between the defendant's breach of duty and the accident. In other words, you need to prove that the accident occurred as a direct result of the defendant's negligent actions. This can be complex, as you'll need to demonstrate that the defendant's actions were a substantial factor in causing the accident.
Damages: You must provide evidence of actual damages suffered by the plaintiff as a result of the accident. This can include medical bills, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. Without provable damages, it is challenging to pursue a negligence claim.
Here are some steps to help you prove negligence in a car accident case:
Collect accident reports from law enforcement.
Obtain witness statements and contact information.
Take photographs of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and injuries.
Secure medical records and bills related to injuries.
Keep records of repair estimates and vehicle damage assessments.
Establish the Duty of Care:
Determine the traffic laws and regulations applicable to the situation.
Identify the specific duty of care owed by the defendant under these laws.
Show a Breach of Duty:
Analyze the defendant's actions or omissions leading up to and during the accident.
Compare these actions to the standard of care expected of a reasonable driver.
Demonstrate that the defendant's breach of duty was the direct cause of the accident.
Consider any other contributing factors and rule out alternative causes.
Maintain a thorough record of all financial losses and non-economic damages suffered due to the accident.
Consult with Experts:
Expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals, can help support your case by providing their professional opinions.
Consult with an Attorney:
An experienced personal injury attorney can assess your case, gather evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and represent your interests in court if necessary.
Remember that each car accident case is unique, and the specific elements of negligence may vary depending on the circumstances. Consult with an attorney who specializes in personal injury law to help you navigate the legal process and build a strong case. Kansas law requires all drivers to operate their vehicles in a safe and reasonable manner. A driver violates this legal obligation—or duty—when he or she becomes distracted from the road or acts in an unsafe manner, such as by speeding or following too close. If a driver’s carelessness causes an accident and injures an individual, the at-fault driver is liable for those injuries. However, if the unsafe driver gets lucky and no accident occurs—or no injury is suffered—there is no claim. This may be surprising, as it seems the unsafe driver gets away with placing others at danger, but the only remedy in such a situation is a traffic citation brought by the state, county, or city.
Another method of establishing negligence is through an action for negligence per se. This type of action is best looked at as a “shortcut” to establishing a legal duty by showing the defendant violated a law. The law can be a state statute, a local ordinance, or even a regulation. In addition to showing that the defendant violated the law and that violation caused injury to the plaintiff, two more things must be proven. First, the law violated must have be enacted to protected from the type of harm plaintiff suffered. This inquiry is fairly generic, though. The law must be intended to simply prevent a car crash, not the exact injuries plaintiff suffered (like a broken arm). Second, the law must have been passed to protect a person like the plaintiff. Again, a plaintiff can paint with a broad brush here by simply showing the law existed to protect another driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian: whichever class the plaintiff fits into.
Negligence claims apply to all individuals that could foreseeably be harmed by a defendant’s careless actions. This means that other drivers, pedestrians, and passengers—both in the defendant’s vehicle or other vehicles—can all be potential plaintiffs. For example, a defendant’s decision to drive while intoxicated foreseeably places all these individuals at risk of being harmed in an accident. It’s unlikely that others not using the road would be harmed, however. For example, if the driver hit a utility pole, causing a black out in a nearby neighborhood, which resulted in a homeowner falling down stairs in the dark, the homeowner would likely not be a foreseeable plaintiff and could therefore not recover. In a negligence case, it is crucially important to ensure that you have the proper plaintiff, as the plaintiff is the party bringing the lawsuit and seeking compensation for injuries or damages. Here are some steps to help you determine if you have the proper plaintiff in a negligence case:
Identify the Injured Party:
The plaintiff in a negligence case is typically the person who suffered injuries or damages due to the defendant's negligence.
Determine who was directly harmed by the defendant's actions or omissions. This is the individual who should be the plaintiff.
Establish Legal Standing:
Ensure that the plaintiff has the legal standing to bring a negligence lawsuit. Legal standing means that the plaintiff has a valid legal interest in the case.
In most cases, the plaintiff must have a direct connection to the incident and the resulting injuries or damages. For example, a person injured in a car accident has standing to sue for their own injuries but generally cannot sue on behalf of someone else who was not directly involved in the accident.
Evaluate Contributory Negligence:
Consider whether the plaintiff may have contributed to their injuries or damages in any way. In some cases, there may be shared fault.
Assess whether the plaintiff's actions played a role in the incident and whether this could affect their ability to recover damages. Some jurisdictions apply comparative negligence or contributory negligence principles, which reduce the plaintiff's recovery based on their degree of fault.
Verify Capacity to Sue:
Ensure that the plaintiff has the legal capacity to sue. This generally means that the plaintiff is of sound mind and is not a minor.
In cases involving minors or individuals with legal incapacities, a guardian or representative may need to bring the lawsuit on their behalf.
Consult with an Attorney:
To confirm that you have the proper plaintiff and that they have a valid claim, consult with a personal injury attorney who specializes in negligence cases. They can assess the situation, gather evidence, and determine whether you have a strong case.
Statute of Limitations:
Be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a negligence lawsuit in your jurisdiction. Failing to file within the prescribed time limit can result in the loss of your right to sue as the plaintiff.
Amend the Complaint if Necessary:
If you discover that the wrong party was initially named as the plaintiff or if there are changes in the circumstances, you may have the option to amend the complaint to name the proper plaintiff.
In a negligence case, it is crucial to identify and name the proper defendant(s) to ensure that your lawsuit is appropriately directed and that you have a valid claim against the responsible party. Here are some steps to help you determine if you have the proper defendant in a negligence case:
Carefully review the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. Determine who was involved and who may have been negligent in causing your injuries or damages.
Identify all potentially liable parties, including individuals, businesses, or government entities, depending on the situation.
Determine Duty of Care:
Understand the duty of care that each potentially liable party owed to you in the specific circumstances. Duty of care varies based on the relationship between the parties and the nature of the situation.
Identify the Responsible Party:
The responsible party is the one who breached their duty of care, leading to the accident and your injuries or damages. This could be a driver, property owner, manufacturer, employer, or other entity.
Consider factors such as who had control over the situation, who had the opportunity to prevent the accident, and who directly caused the harm.
Evaluate Contributory Negligence:
Assess whether you, as the plaintiff, also played a role in causing the accident. In some cases, there may be shared fault, which can affect the liability of the defendant.
The legal concept of comparative negligence or contributory negligence determines the extent to which each party is responsible for the damages.
Consult with an Attorney:
To ensure you have the proper defendant(s), consult with a personal injury attorney who specializes in negligence cases. They can help you assess the situation, identify potential defendants, and determine the strength of your case.
Investigate Insurance Coverage:
Determine if the potential defendant has insurance coverage that may apply to your claim. This is especially important when dealing with car accidents, premises liability, or other situations where insurance policies might come into play.
Statute of Limitations:
Be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a negligence lawsuit in your jurisdiction. Failing to file within the prescribed time limit can result in the loss of your right to sue, regardless of the defendant's liability.
Amend the Complaint if Necessary:
If new evidence comes to light or if you discover that you initially sued the wrong party, you may have the option to amend your complaint to name the proper defendant.
Remember that determining the proper defendant in a negligence case can be complex, and legal guidance is essential. An attorney can help you navigate the legal process, assess liability, and ensure that your lawsuit is directed against the responsible party or parties. Determining who is liable for an injury is crucial to any case. Any and all individuals that are a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s injuries are liable for those injuries to some extent. Sometimes, the cause of the accident is obvious. An example of this would be when a single driver collides with a pedestrian legally and reasonably crossing the street. In other circumstances, it can be quite difficult to determine which individual or individuals are responsible. A pile-up crash is a good example. The very last car in the pile up fails to act reasonably by following too closely and strikes a car stopped just before it. If the chain reaction causes other stopped cars to collide, the first driver will be responsible for all those injured. However, the other drivers may also be responsible if they too followed to closely or failed to pay proper attention. Discovering exactly what happened will determine who is liable and this is can be a very complex task.
Two common occurrences concerning defendants are worth mentioning. First, a passenger in a vehicle is allowed to sue both a driver that carelessly causes an accident and the driver of the vehicle the passenger was in if both drivers were careless. Second, when a hit-and-run accident occurs, the injured party may be able to recovery from his own insurance company if he has purchased uninsured motorist protection.
Plaintiff’s Actions and how they affect a claim
Just as the actions of multiple defendants may each be a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff’s actions may also be a substantial factor. When this is the case, the plaintiff will be found partially at fault for the accident. The effect of this in Kansas is generally a reduction in the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover. However, if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, any recovery is barred.
Remember that even if a defendant is careless, he or she won’t be liable unless they actually cause injury to a plaintiff. What happens if a defendant’s carelessness causes the plaintiff to collide with an object or another driver? The answer depends on the particular facts of each occurrence, but simply because the defendant’s vehicle doesn’t collide with plaintiff (or her vehicle) does not automatically bar recovery. A defendant may quickly switch lanes in front of the plaintiff, leaving the plaintiff no choice but to collide with defendant. There, defendant is still the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries because his actions brought about the injuries. The same is true if plaintiff is forced to swerve into another car or object, such as a barricade. The jury will ultimately determine if plaintiff’s reaction to defendant’s carelessness was justified—meaning no fault is attributed to plaintiff—or was also careless—meaning some degree of fault may also be attributed to plaintiff.
Car accidents are a common occurrence. When the careless actions of another driver have caused you injury, there can be a lot of questions. Only by contacting capable and experienced legal counsel can all these questions be answered. An attorney will be able to look at the facts of your case to determine who you can recover from and ensure full, fair redress is recovered.
What makes a good car wreck case vs a bad car wreck case?
The strength of a car wreck case, whether it's considered good or bad, depends on various factors. These factors can influence the likelihood of success in pursuing a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Here are some key elements that differentiate a strong car wreck case from a weak one:
Characteristics of a Strong Car Wreck Case:
Clear Liability: A strong case often involves a clear demonstration of the other driver's negligence or fault in causing the accident. This can include evidence such as police reports, witness statements, traffic violations, or admissions of guilt.
Serious Injuries: Cases involving severe injuries, such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or permanent disabilities, tend to be stronger. Serious injuries often result in higher medical bills and more significant damages.
Documentation: Strong cases have comprehensive documentation of the accident scene, vehicle damage, injuries, medical treatment, and other relevant details. This documentation helps establish the facts and provides evidence for your claim.
Witnesses: Eyewitnesses who can testify to the circumstances of the accident and who can corroborate your account can strengthen your case.
Adherence to Traffic Laws: If it can be demonstrated that the other driver violated traffic laws (e.g., running a red light, speeding, or driving under the influence), it can bolster your case.
Insurance Coverage: The other driver's insurance coverage, especially if they have sufficient liability coverage, can make it easier to recover damages.
No Shared Fault: A strong case typically involves minimal or no contributory negligence on your part. Contributory negligence can reduce your potential compensation in some jurisdictions.
Credible Medical Evidence: Medical records and expert testimony from healthcare professionals can establish the extent and causation of your injuries, strengthening your claim for damages.
Characteristics of a Weak Car Wreck Case:
Unclear Liability: When fault is disputed or difficult to establish, it weakens the case. If there are no witnesses or conflicting accounts, it can be challenging to prove negligence.
Minor Injuries: Cases involving minor injuries or soft tissue injuries (e.g., whiplash) may be less valuable because they result in lower medical bills and less substantial damages.
Lack of Documentation: Insufficient documentation of the accident, injuries, or medical treatment can weaken your case. It's essential to gather evidence as soon as possible after the accident.
Shared Fault: If you share some level of fault for the accident, it can diminish your ability to recover damages, particularly in states with strict contributory negligence rules.
Limited Insurance Coverage: If the at-fault driver has insufficient or no insurance coverage, it can reduce your chances of recovering full compensation, especially if you don't have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Pre-Existing Injuries: If you had pre-existing injuries or medical conditions that were worsened by the accident, it can complicate matters and make it harder to attribute all your damages to the accident.
Lack of Witnesses: If there were no witnesses to the accident and no evidence to support your version of events, it can weaken your case.
Delay in Seeking Medical Treatment: Waiting too long to seek medical treatment after the accident can raise questions about the causation of your injuries.
It's important to note that the strength of a car wreck case can vary significantly based on the specific circumstances and the laws in your jurisdiction. Consulting with a personal injury attorney is crucial for assessing the strength of your case, understanding your legal options, and pursuing the most favorable outcome.
Every case in which there has been a serious injury or a fatality should be thoroughly investigated by an attorney. We know a number of times where the police reports suggest that the events occurred one way and after looking at a matter and hiring an accident reconstructionist to evaluate what happened, it ends up that it was not the way the police initially determined. We are not in any way critical of the police, but many times they write a report based on the information that they have, the police also have limited resources and limited time. Our job is to be able to dig deeper in this case and hopefully get some information that they did not know. Every wreck that causes a serious injury or fatality should be investigated.
What generally makes for a viable personal injury case is a liability factor, whether it be a rear-end accident, somebody running a stop sign, or a red light, or somebody texting and driving. There are a variety of liability factors that play in to the analysis of whether a viable case exists. The second element would be the type of damages a person sustained. There could have been a collision in which nobody was injured so that would not be a viable case. There can be what appears to be a relatively straight forward rear-end accident at an intersection that resulted in catastrophic injuries, and that is something that should be evaluated and determined. We have to answer the questions like, why are the injuries so severe in what appeared to be a relatively straight forward wreck?
Those are the things that our firm looks at on a day to day basis. We evaluate the facts of a particular wreck and then evaluate the damages, whether it is the injuries involved, the medical bills, or the lost wages.
What Are The Top Misconceptions About Auto Accidents?
One of the most significant misunderstandings that we as people believe, is that the insurance company, whether it be the other person’s or their own, are looking to take care of the injured person. The insurance companies and the lobbyists have been very successful with slogans suggesting that they are interested in taking care of people that are injured, but the majority of the time, that is not the truth. People think that our own insurance companies will take care of us. When somebody that was really nice calls us on behalf of the person that hit us and they say they are going to take care of all our medical bills and everything else, the reality of that is this: insurance companies make money by not paying out on the claims.
People have a misunderstanding when talking with a lawyer about their accident that this is going to be expensive. Most personal injury attorneys will offer a free consultation and talk with most everyone about their situation. We will ask questions; who was involved in the wreck? How did the wreck occur? Those type of things. This gives attorneys a better understanding of what the person is going through. An attorney can represent them and offer suggestions, and decide if an accident is worth further investigation.
What Are The Fault Laws In Kansas?
Kansas is a No Fault State. A lot of people think that means that it just does not matter who is at fault in an accident. Most times, the first conversation somebody has with the adverse party’s insurance company is this; Kansas is a No Fault State period, so always contact your own insurance company. The person thinks that this means that even though the other person was at fault they still need to contact their own insurance company. This simply isn’t true.
In Kansas, by statute a person’s own insurance carrier is required to carry at least $4500 in personal injury protection benefit, also known as PIP. That PIP benefit can be paid out as the primary source of payment for the first $4500 of medical bills. So the term No Fault really has nothing to do with the legal system or the civil justice system in terms of who is at fault, who pays, and who is entitled to compensation. It really has to do with the first $4500 of medical payments that comes from that persons own insurance company.
The Steps To Take After Being Injured In An Auto Accident
If you've been injured in an auto accident, it's important to take specific steps to protect your well-being, gather evidence, and preserve your legal rights. Here are the essential steps to take after being injured in an auto accident:
Prioritize your safety and the safety of others. Move to a safe location if possible and turn on hazard lights.
Seek Medical Attention:
Check yourself and others for injuries. If anyone is seriously injured, call 911 immediately.
Even if you don't initially feel injured, it's advisable to seek medical attention. Injuries may not be immediately apparent, and prompt medical evaluation can document your condition.
Notify the Police:
Call the police to report the accident, even if it's a minor one. Ask for a copy of the police report for your records.
Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Include names, phone numbers, addresses, insurance policy details, and vehicle information.
Document the scene by taking photographs and videos of the accident, including vehicle damage, road conditions, traffic signals, and street signs.
Collect contact information from any witnesses, as their statements may be valuable later.
Notify Your Insurance Company:
Report the accident to your own insurance company as soon as possible. Provide them with the basic details of the accident.
Keep all documents related to the accident, such as medical bills, repair estimates, and correspondence with insurance companies.
Preserve any physical evidence, such as damaged clothing or vehicle parts, if applicable.
Consult an Attorney:
Consider consulting a personal injury attorney experienced in auto accidents. They can provide legal guidance, assess your case, and help you understand your rights and options.
Document Your Injuries:
Keep a detailed record of your injuries, symptoms, and the impact on your daily life. This information will be important when seeking compensation.
Follow Medical Advice:
Adhere to your healthcare provider's recommendations and attend all medical appointments. This helps ensure a thorough medical record of your injuries.
Notify Your Employer:
If your injuries affect your ability to work, inform your employer and follow any company-specific procedures for reporting workplace injuries.
Communicate with Insurance Adjusters:
Be cautious when communicating with the other driver's insurance company or adjusters. Do not admit fault, provide recorded statements, or accept settlements without consulting your attorney.
Consider Legal Action:
If you believe another party's negligence caused the accident and your injuries, consult your attorney about the possibility of filing a personal injury claim.
Preserve Your Rights:
Be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in your jurisdiction. Failing to file within the prescribed time limit can result in the loss of your right to sue.
Remember that every auto accident is unique, and the steps you should take may vary depending on the specific circumstances. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help ensure that you take the appropriate actions to protect your rights and pursue fair compensation for your injuries and damages. Always remember if you were involved in a wreck, first and foremost, you need to receive the appropriate medical care and treatments for any. That should always be the first concern for someone that has been in a wreck and sustained any type of injuries. After receiving medical care, they should follow all of the advice any health care professionals give, whether it be the ambulance, emergency room or primary care physician.