Finding Fault: How to Claim Against a Negligent Driver

It happens when you least expect it, someone swerves in their lane, runs a stop sign, or fails to stop, slamming into you. The mistakes of another driver may appear innocent, but they will likely receive citations for unsafe driving. If you or others suffer injuries, they may be found liable in a negligent driver civil lawsuit.

In 2019 the U.S. had 6,756,000 motor vehicle crashes reported to the police. Out of those, 1,916,000 resulted in personal injuries and 33,244 in death.

Every year about 2 million drivers suffer permanent injuries because of an automobile accident. In 2018 the average personal injury claim for auto accident victims was $15,785.

If you or a loved one suffer personal injuries you may have a negligent driver claim. This provides compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and more.

After receiving medical treatment, your first call needs to be to a Nashville auto accident personal injury attorney. They will evaluate your case regarding your legal claim against the other driver.

Keep reading to learn about what it takes to prove negligent driver fault in a car accident lawsuit.

What Is a Negligent Driver?

A negligent driver is someone who fails to act responsibly in a specific situation. This includes when a driver is careless and their behavior results in another person suffering injuries.

Common causes of negligent driver accidents include:

  • Applying makeup or personal grooming
  • Cell phone use including texting
  • Changing the radio
  • Daydreaming
  • Driver fatigue
  • Drunk driving
  • Eating or drinking
  • Passenger or pet distractions
  • Smoking or Vaping

Anything you do while driving that takes your attention away from the road is negligence. Negligence occurs when a driver breaches their duty to operate their vehicle safely but is not willfully reckless.

What Is Reckless Driving?

Anyone driving an automobile with wanton or willful disregard for the safety of people or property is driving recklessly. This means the driver is aware of the risks and continues to drive in a dangerous manner.

Examples of reckless behavior:

  • Driving above the speed limit
  • Drunk driving
  • Failing to use turn signals when lane changing or turning
  • Failing to stop at traffic lights or signs
  • Failing to use headlights during bad weather or at night
  • Racing
  • Texting or cell phone use

Reckless driving is a Class B misdemeanor in Tennessee. This is a criminal charge, which is different from a civil car accident claim.

Why You Need a Civil Lawsuit

Many people have the misconception that restitution the criminal court orders a negligent or reckless driver to pay satisfies their compensation needs. This is not true.

A criminal judge may order the driver to pay restitution, which is an amount established by criminal statutes. It does not take into consideration the long-term needs relating to your personal injuries.

In a civil lawsuit, your personal injury attorney will review the injuries you have and determine your need to seek compensation. Injuries people receive from a car accident include soft tissue injuries, traumatic brain injuries, neck and back injuries, cuts and scrapes, severe burns, chest injuries, arm and leg injuries, fractures, and broken bones.

Recovery from an accident can take weeks, months, or more than a year. Your attorney will present information to the court on your long-term prognosis, which impacts your settlement. They will file claims and take appropriate legal action for you to receive compensation for loss of wages, medical expenses, replacement services, travel to obtain medical treatment, pain and suffering, and more.

Elements of a Negligence Claim

The elements of a negligence claim are set forth in the Restatement (Third) of Torts. Every state adheres to the four-element requirement. A successful auto accident attorney knows every element must be proven to win the case.

1. Duty

The defendant driver had a duty to drive their vehicle in a safe and prudent manner. The law requires that all drivers exercise appropriate caution, including awareness of their surroundings and following the rules of the road.

2. Breach of Duty

The defendant breached their duty when they failed to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. Your attorney will specify what actions the driver took that show a breach of duty—speeding, distracted driving, failure to yield, etc.

3. Causation

You must prove the defendant’s breach of duty is the reason for the accident. For example, the driver’s speeding and their failure to stop at the traffic light was the direct and proximate cause of the collision. That failure is the cause of you suffering permanent, life-altering injuries.

4. Damages

Damages are a monetary estimate of the losses you have from the accident. The dollar amount is shown as a minimum dollar amount. This allows the jury or judge to award an amount over and above that amount.

Your attorney will list all damages you incur. This includes medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and more.

Your attorney will specify if your injuries are permanent and life-altering. That usually provides you with a higher monetary award.

Prayers for Relief

After the elements, your attorney will list your prayers for relief. This is a very short re-statement of what you are asking for, which at a minimum will be:

  1. That the defendant is found liable for negligent driving
  2. That the plaintiff is awarded at minimum dollar amount as compensation for their injuries
  3. That the plaintiff is awarded any and all other relief as the court deems appropriate

The list your attorney uses may be lengthy or short, depending on the facts of your case.

Discovery in a Car Accident Claim

Your Nashville car accident attorney will prepare and file pleadings in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure and serve them on the defendant. There will be a waiting period for the defendant to respond. The defendant may also file a counter lawsuit if they deem it appropriate.

Once the above is complete, the discovery process begins. This allows each side to obtain relevant facts from the other side.

Unlike on TV, there is no surprise evidence one side reveals at trial. This is not allowed in the real world. All pertinent evidence must be revealed to the other side in advance.

Discovery includes a voluntary exchange of evidence between attorneys in hopes of proving their case and reaching a settlement. This includes accident reports, medical records, depositions, interrogatories, requests to admit, and demands for the production of documents.

One area that is becoming useful discovery in court is postings on social media. Posting on social media platforms about the accident or your injuries can be twisted by the other side and used as evidence against you.

Settlement or Trial

The final step in your car accident claim is obtaining a settlement agreeable to both sides. If your personal injury attorney is unable to reach an acceptable settlement, the matter will proceed to trial.

After the presentation of all evidence and witness testimony, the jury or the judge will make a final determination on the case and any award.

File a Negligent Driver Car Accident Claim

If you are the victim of a negligent driver and suffer a personal injury, schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with Reasonover Law Firm. We will evaluate your case and provide you with our legal opinion on filing a negligent driver claim.

Call us today at 615-241-0405 or use our contact form to schedule a consultation today.