Sometimes, despite everyone doing what they are supposed to be doing, a car crash happens. It’s unusual, but it happens. What is much more common is for a crash to be caused by someone’s actions. When that happens, the innocent victim of the collision might have a claim for compensation from the driver who caused the crash. In order to hold the at-fault driver accountable, the victim will have to prove that the other driver was negligent. And that’s just for starters.
We take a look at what goes into proving a case against another driver when you were injured in a car crash in Kansas City or elsewhere in Missouri or Kansas, and how, as car accident attorneys, we could be an asset to your case.
Elements of Negligence in Car Accident Claims
It may seem like a given that a driver who breaks a traffic law and causes a crash is liable for the damage they cause. However, the legal process in these cases is not so cut and dried. In Missouri and Kansas, establishing negligence in a car accident case requires proving several key elements.
To successfully win a claim for negligence, a plaintiff must generally demonstrate the following:
- Duty of care. The plaintiff must establish that the defendant (the at-fault driver) owed them a duty of care. In the context of a car accident, this duty is often straightforward—every driver has the responsibility to operate their motor vehicle safely and in accordance with traffic laws.
- Breach of duty. The plaintiff must then show that the defendant breached their duty of care. This means the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care while driving, such as by speeding, running a red light, or driving while distracted or intoxicated.
- Causation. An essential part of a car accident claim is proving that the defendant's breach of duty was the proximate cause of the accident and the resulting injuries or damages. In other words, the plaintiff must show a direct connection between the defendant's actions and the harm suffered.
- Damages. To succeed in a negligence claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate actual damages, such as medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, pain and suffering, or other losses resulting from the accident. Without quantifiable damages, a negligence claim may not be viable.
- Comparative negligence. Missouri follows a comparative negligence system, which means that if the plaintiff shares some responsibility for the accident, it doesn't necessarily bar their claim. However, the plaintiff's recovery may be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault. In Missouri, as long as the plaintiff is less than 50% at fault, they can still recover damages, but their award will be diminished by their own percentage of fault. Kansas follows a modified comparative negligence system for car accidents, allowing injured parties to seek compensation as long as their fault is less than 50%.
- Statute of limitations. It's crucial to file a negligence claim within the statute of limitations, which is the time limit set by law for bringing a lawsuit after an accident. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims, including those arising from car accidents, is typically five years from the date of the accident. In Kansas, the deadline is only two years from the date of injury. However, it's essential to consult with an attorney to ensure compliance with specific deadlines.
- Evidence. Insurance adjusters and courts won’t just take a plaintiff’s word for it. To support the claim, plaintiffs should gather and present evidence such as accident reports, witness statements, medical records, photographs, and any other relevant documentation.
Proving negligence in a car accident case in Missouri or Kansas can be complex, and the outcome often depends on the specific facts and circumstances of the incident. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is highly recommended to navigate the legal process effectively and maximize the chances of a successful claim.
Examples of Negligent Driver Actions That Cause Car Accidents
It’s really a misnomer to call a car crash involving one driver’s negligence an accident. They might not have set out to intentionally cause a collision, but their negligent actions were not “accidental.” Collisions caused by one driver's negligence can take various forms, depending on the specific circumstances. Here are a few examples:
- Following too closely. When a driver fails to maintain a safe following distance and strikes the vehicle in front of them, they are almost always considered to be at fault. It is the responsibility of every driver to ensure that they have enough time to stop if the car in front of them stops suddenly.
- Distracted driving. When a driver engages in activities like texting, talking on the phone, or using in-car entertainment systems, their attention is diverted from the road and can cause an accident. If it can be proved that the driver was distracted, they can be found to be at fault.
- Speeding. When a driver exceeds the posted speed limit or drives too fast for road and weather conditions, the likelihood of a crash increases significantly, and they could be found liable for resulting damages.
- Running red lights or stop signs. Drivers who ignore traffic signals and signs, proceeding through intersections when they should stop, often cause dangerous T-bone or side-impact collisions.
- Drunk or impaired driving accidents. Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs can severely impair a driver's judgment and reaction times. Drunk drivers are not only criminally liable, but they are also civilly liable for injuries they cause.
- Reckless driving. Behaviors like aggressive lane-changing, tailgating, and excessive speeding can constitute reckless driving and are a leading cause of accidents.
- Failure to yield the right of way. When a driver fails to yield the right of way to another vehicle, pedestrian, or cyclist as required by traffic laws, they would be liable for collisions at intersections or in other traffic scenarios.
These examples illustrate how negligence on the part of one driver can lead to a wide range of car accidents, each with its unique set of consequences and potential injuries.