Written by attorney Michael Paul Fleming

Who is liable after a car accident?

Car accidents can happen for many reasons. The basic elements of a car or truck accident are similar to any negligence claim. To prove somebody acted in a negligent manner causing recoverable damages (such as in an automobile accident), you must prove:

A Duty

Breach of the duty (negligence)

Causation between the duty and

Damages resulting from the breach of the duty.

To prove that somebody was negligent (breach of a duty), it must be shown that the defendant failed use ordinary care - that which a reasonable person of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar circumstances. We are all under a duty to use "ordinary care" in operating an automobile or truck. In a personal injury claim involving a car or truck accident, negligence is generally what causes most accidents. Some types of negligent behavior which can cause a car accident and personal injury include:

Failure to keep a proper lookout

Failure to control their speed such as speeding or driving too slowly.

Following too closely behind another driver

Failing to yield right-of-way

Going through a red light or failing to stop at a stop sign

Failure to control the vehicle

Failure to use the brakes in the car

Failing to use the horn

Failing to use a turn signal correctly

Driving in an impaired state such as under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Driving on the wrong side of the road

This is not an exhaustive list as there can be many other ways that the car or truck driver can act negligently and cause injuries. Furthermore, in many car accident cases, the negligent driver has failed to use ordinary care in multiple ways.

To prove that the negligent actions of the other car or truck driver is liable, you must show that they were the "proximate cause" of your injuries. " Proximate cause" means that cause which, in a natural and continuous sequence, produces an event, and without which cause such event would not have occurred. In order to be a proximate cause, the act or omission complained of must be such that a person using ordinary care would have foreseen that the event, or some similar event, might reasonably result therefrom. There may be more than one proximate cause of an event. In a car accident case, proximate cause is rarely an issue in a car or truck accident case.

Once negligence (duty, breach of the duty) and causation are established, it is necessary to evaluate the damages that can be recovered by somebody injured in an automobile accident. The most common types of damages sought and recoverable in a car accident personal injury case in Texas are:

Past and future physical pain and mental anguish

Past and future disfigurement

Past and future physical impairment

Loss of consortium

Loss of household services

Loss of past wages

Loss of future earning capacity

Past medical expenses

Future medical expenses

Punitive (Exemplary) damages in certain cases

Car wrecks can be the result of driver inattention, excessive speed, distractions and impairment. Car accidents that are the result of driver impairment are quite common. The impairment can be caused by many factors including drug and alcohol abuse.

In some cases, a claim for personal injuries from a car accident may also be brought against individuals other than the negligent driver. If the driver was working for a company or individual, then the employer may be responsible for the driver's negligence and the resulting damages. Furthermore, even if not working, the owner of the vehicle may be liable for the negligence of the driver. This is known as liability for negligent entrustment. Under this cause of action, an owner of a vehicle that allows another to operate it can be held liable for his or her negligent driving. The owner - whether friend, acquaintance, parent, brother, sister, spouse or other relative - may be liable if they negligently entrusted the vehicle to somebody they knew, or should have know, to be a reckless, incompetent or unlicensed driver.

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