Car Accident Lawyer
One of the Auto Accident Lawyers Indianapolis, IN residents trust must prove each of the following five elements of negligence in order to recover compensation for your injuries:
Duty of Care – In tort law, your car accident attorney must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to protect you from any foreseeable harms or injuries as would be exercised by a reasonable person.
In the United States, it wasn’t until the nineteenth century when the standard for tort liability was judicially settled to define the duty of care by exercising the reasonable and prudent test. In Vaughan v Menlove, farmer Menlove built a haystack near the edge of Vaughan’s property line. Vaughan warned Menlove several times over a period of weeks that the hay stack was hazardous. Menlove replied that he would risk it. (Note: When hay is put up without enough ventilation, it can overheat and combust spontaneously; this is often why so many barns burn down.)
The hay ignited and destroyed two cottages on Vaughan’s property. Menlove’s attorney unsuccessfully used the defense that his client lacked the faculties to mentally “reason” and should therefore not be held liable for Vaughan’s damages; it was determined by the jury that Menlove owed a duty of care to his neighbor and was indeed responsible for Vaughan’s damages.
Breach of Duty – The second element of negligence that your car accident attorney must prove is that the defendant failed to live up to the duty of care standard owed to the plaintiff. An unreasonable act or non-action may be considered a breach of duty. Example: a distracted driver who rear ends the plaintiff has breached their duty of care by taking no action to avoid the collision.
Cause in Fact – This is the third element of negligence that your car accident attorney must prove. The defendant’s breach of duty is so closely related to the outcome or the actual cause, that the action or non-action caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Some jurisdictions use the term cause-in-fact; others have updated jury instructions to factual cause. Cause-in-fact uses the “but for” test, i.e., but for the action, the result would not have occurred.
Proximate Cause – The fourth element of negligence: A breach of defendant’s duty tied to an event that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. A defendant is only responsible for those harms that defendant could have foreseen through his or her actions. A remote or secondary event would not be a proximate cause.
Damages – The fifth element of negligence: Injuries and other harms that the plaintiff has received as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty to the plaintiff.
The five elements listed above are the test for any civil tort claim of negligence. If the facts of your claim contain each of the five elements, you may have a valid case for injuries. I recommend you seek counsel with a car accident attorney before you speak to the insurance company and before valuable evidence is lost.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Ward & Ward Law Firm for their insight into the elements of a car accident.