When you are involved in a motor vehicle collision and you are injured there are certain questions that every injured party wants answered. Some of this information and the corresponding insurance terms can be confusing, and rightfully so since often times this information has never been explained to you. In order to pursue a claim against the party that caused the collision there are certain things that a personal injury lawyer must determine. One of the initial factors that must be determined is liability. Once liability is determined, then a Negligence claim can be made for Damages.
What is Liability?
Liability simply means who is “liable” or at fault for the accident. Once liability is determined; the person found liable will be responsible for any harms and losses that they have caused you or your family.
Liability can be clear cut, other times it is a complex issue that can potentially prevent you from proving a negligence claim and obtaining a settlement for your injury. There are many things that lawyers look at to determine liability. If there is a police report, the lawyer will order it, as it will state who the police officers determined to be the liable party. Other information to assist in determining liability is statements by the parties involved, their passengers, and independent witnesses, if available. Unfortunately, you won’t always have a police report, or independent witnesses. In those cases, the auto accident is considered a word versus word scenario, and often times in these cases you will see that each party is stating that the other party is at fault for the accident. In that scenario liability is solely based on the statements from the parties involved along with the physical damage found on the vehicles. However, in some cases traffic cameras can establish who is at fault, but this evidence is much more difficult to obtain. Once liability has been established the lawyer can move forward with a Negligence claim.
What is Negligence?
In essence Negligence means the failure to exercise care towards others, compared to what a reasonable prudent person would do in the same/similar circumstance. A person is negligent if their conduct falls below the standards of behavior established by the law for protection of others, and it causes harm.
In order to prove Negligence you need to speak with a lawyer to determine what facts and evidence you need to support the claim. Once Negligence is proved you can seek damages for the harm that resulted from the Negligence.
What are Damages?
Damages are the amount of money the injured party may be awarded from the claim or lawsuit. There are different types of damages. Special Damages include medical bills, loss of earnings, and out of pocket costs, etc. General Damages are the damages related your pain and suffering, basically how this injury affects your day to day life. There is another area of damages called Punitive Damages. Punitive Damages are to punish the defendant for doing something wrong, and are only awarded in very particular cases, such as Driving Under the Influence.
Every case has a different value. No two cases are the same. Each case is carefully reviewed before the lawyer can determine what the case is likely to settle for. The insurance company will value your case based on the significance of the accident, the type of treatment, the injuries, etc. However, insurance carriers will almost always undervalue your case, and this is something that each and every individual should be cautious of. Each case needs to be carefully assessed by the injured parties’ lawyer to increase the potential value on the case.