If you suffered in a car accident caused by someone else, one of your options might be to pursue a lawsuit. A successful case should meet certain basic requirements in order to proceed and have a chance of success.
As the plaintiff, the two main issues you would need to prove are fault and damages. The other driver must have been at fault and you must have sustained actual damages.
What does it mean for a driver to be at fault? The law generally defines negligence in this context as failing to exercise a reasonable degree of care under the circumstances. Generally, a driver may show negligence by breaking safety rules without adequate reason. Sometimes, defendants respond by arguing that although they broke a rule, they acted reasonably in view of the circumstances. Proving fault can involve a complex analysis of the facts and of applicable law.
Once you show fault, you will also need to prove you suffered damages, including substantiating the amount of your demand. Damages awards aim to put the plaintiff back into the financial position he or she would have been in but for the accident.
One major category of damages covers economic damages – financial losses caused by injuries and property damage from the accident. Accident victims may need to pay for medical treatments, medications and assistance at home. Another common type of loss arises when the injury reduces or destroys earning capacity. A damages award can cover likely future losses as well as past ones.
Other types of damages
Not all harm is financial. People who become injured in car accidents often experience physical pain and psychological trauma. They may face a severe impact on their relationships with loved ones and on their ability to enjoy life. The law deems these damages worthy of legal compensation as well.
In some rare cases, your attorney may suggest a demand for punitive damages as well. Typically, these may be available when the at-fault driver behaved extraordinarily badly. These damages do not aim to compensate the plaintiff; instead, they exist to punish reckless conduct. Most negligent behavior will not rise to this level.