Car Accidents Caused by Negligence
Learn about negligence -- a legal theory for proving fault in car accident cases.
Negligence is a legal theory that is the basis for many car accident lawsuits. If you’ve
been in a car accident and have been sued or are suing the other party, there’s a good
chance you’ve heard the term “negligence” kicked around. But what exactly is
negligence and how do you prove it? Here’s a primer on using negligence as a basis for
recovery in car accident cases.
What Is Negligence?
When a person is negligent, it means that he or she has behaved in a thoughtless or
careless manner, which has caused harm or injury to another person. A person can be
negligent by doing something that he or she should not have done (for example, running a
red light or speeding), or by failing to do something that he or she should have done (for
example, failing to yield, stop for a pedestrian, or turn on lights when driving at night).
Negligence is a legal theory often used in car accident cases. A driver must use care to
avoid injuring other motorists, passengers, or pedestrians -- basically, anyone that he or
she encounters on the road. If a driver is not reasonably careful and injures someone as a
result, the driver is liable for injuring the accident victim.
Elements of a Negligence Claim
The person who brings the lawsuit (called the plaintiff) must show that the defendant (the
person being sued) was negligent. If you are the plaintiff, you must show all of the
The law required the defendant to be reasonably careful. In car accident cases, the
law requires drivers to be careful when encountering anyone they meet on the road --
passengers, persons in other vehicles, and pedestrians -- so this one is a given. This is
called the "duty of reasonable care."
The defendant was not careful. This is called "breaching" (or violating) the duty of
care. In determining whether a driver was sufficiently careful, the law compares the
driver’s conduct with the conduct expected of a “re