The vast majority of tort cases arise out of auto accidents and allege vehicular negligence. These cases are so commonplace as to become routine, and yet it is important to remember that in order for you as the plaintiff to prevail, you must prove each of the traditional elements of negligence. The following information will help you to develop the facts and identify the witnesses necessary to prove each element.
In an vehicular negligence case, you must establish that defendant’s conduct constituted a breach of a legal duty that was the cause-in-fact and the proximate cause of actual damages to you. Each of these elements is discussed below.
- Duty – Legal duties ordinarily arise from affirmative conduct that the defendant undertakes, and in vehicle negligence cases, the duty of care arises from defendant’s affirmative conduct in operating a motor vehicle. You must establish that defendant engaged in this affirmative conduct or was legally liable for the acts of another person under the substantive law. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help discover and establish the facts necessary to prove the affirmative conduct requirement.
- Breach of Duty – The defendant breaches his or her obligation to exercise due care when defendant fails to act as would a reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances. Proper discovery of the defendant’s conduct may find important information necessary to establish a contention that the defendant failed to act as would a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances.
- Cause in Fact – Under legal analysis, defendant’s breach of duty is the cause-in-fact of plaintiff’s damages when the breach is a substantial factor and a material element in bringing about the harm. You are thus required to establish that the defendant’s negligence met these tests; you cannot prevail if the injuries would have occurred without defendant’s negligence. Our trained legal staff will investigate the facts or conditions alleged by the defendant to have contributed to your injuries. Such facts and conditions are directly probative on the issue of whether defendant’s negligence was the cause in fact of your damages.
- Proximate Cause – While the matter has been the subject of continuous academic debate, trial courts tend to identify the issue of “proximate cause” with so-called “intervening forces” and “unforeseeable results.” In practice, the existence of additional forces which combine with defendant’s negligence to cause injury will require the jury to affirmatively determine that defendant’s conduct was the proximate cause of plaintiff’s damages. Similarly, the jury will be instructed on proximate cause when defendant’s negligence, unaccompanied by any intervening forces, causes a result or damage which is arguably “unforeseeable.” Our experienced attorneys can assist you in understanding these terms and what they mean to your case.
- Damages – Finally, you must establish that the defendant’s negligence caused you to suffer legally cognizable damages. Traditional damage analysis divides the recoverable compensatory damages into (1) special damages, which may be calculated with some precision and which ordinarily represent past or future out-of-pocket losses; and (2) general damages, which are ordinarily awarded for intangible losses such as pain, suffering and humiliation. Our attorneys will help you determine the proper damages and assist in finding the right evaluation for your case.