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Accident law is an area of the law of “torts.” Torts are civil wrongs recognized as a basis for a lawsuit and compensation for any damages caused by the wrong. In accident law, the wrong is not intentional but results from negligence. It can have application to many situations in which an accident occurs, as long as negligence was the cause of the accident.
This type of law is typically applied in accidents involving any kind of vehicle or form of transportation, including cars, motorcycles, and boats. Accident law also encompasses workplace accidents, accidents involving falls, or being struck by something. The harm in accident cases can range from minor injuries to loss of life.
In accident law, the central issue is who was at fault or “negligent.” Negligence is the failure to behave with the same care as a person of ordinary caution would in the same circumstances. There are several legal elements necessary to prove negligence.
To establish negligence, there first must be “a duty of care.” For instance, the driver of an automobile on a public road has a duty to operate her vehicle safely, to exercise “due care.” That duty of care must be breached, for example speeding through a residential neighborhood while searching for a CD under the seat of the car. The failure to exercise care must be the cause in fact of an injury, as when the driver hits another car while looking for her CD instead of watching the road, resulting in injury to the other driver.
Monetary damages for the harm sustained in an accident can be granted for any injuries and related expenses. Damages are meant to compensate the victim of the accident, as well as to deter others from causing the same kind of harm. The plaintiff in an accident case may be compensated for medical bills, lost wages for time off work attributable to the accident, and any damage to personal property. In certain circumstances, a plaintiff may be compensated for emotional trauma resulting from the accident.
Calculating damages in cases involving serious long-term injury or death can be more complex. Some injuries may be so serious as to affect the injured person for life, resulting in the loss of a career or the ability to engage in previous pastimes and activities. In cases of wrongful death, there may be considerations of the loss of the society, support, and companionship of the deceased. Wrongful death actions are filed by the survivors and beneficiaries of the deceased.