How Do Car Accident Claims Work?
Last year, 60,473 traffic accidents were reported in Kansas. With so many occurring each year, car accidents are one of the most likely lawsuits an individual will be involved in. When an accident occurs, it is extremely important to gather information about the parties involved as soon as possible—generally at the scene of the accident. This is vital to ensure redress can be sought from those responsible. Below is an overview of when liability attaches and other important considerations for claims arising out of car accidents.
Kansas law requires all drivers to operate their vehicles in a safe and reasonable manner. A driver violates this legal obligation—or duty—when he or she becomes distracted from the road or acts in an unsafe manner, such as by speeding or following too close. If a driver’s carelessness causes an accident and injures an individual, the at-fault driver is liable for those injuries. However, if the unsafe driver gets lucky and no accident occurs—or no injury is suffered—there is no claim. This may be surprising, as it seems the unsafe driver gets away with placing others at danger, but the only remedy in such a situation is a traffic citation brought by the state, county, or city.
Another method of establishing negligence is through an action for negligence per se. This type of action is best looked at as a “shortcut” to establishing a legal duty by showing the defendant violated a law. The law can be a state statute, a local ordinance, or even a regulation. In addition to showing that the defendant violated the law and that violation caused injury to the plaintiff, two more things must be proven. First, the law violated must have be enacted to protected from the type of harm plaintiff suffered. This inquiry is fairly generic, though. The law must be intended to simply prevent a car crash, not the exact injuries plaintiff suffered (like a broken arm). Second, the law must have been passed to protect a person like the plaintiff. Again, a plaintiff can paint with a broad brush here by simply showing the law existed to protect another driver, a passenger, or a pedestrian: whichever class the plaintiff fits into.
Negligence claims apply to all individuals that could foreseeably be harmed by a defendant’s careless actions. This means that other drivers, pedestrians, and passengers—both in the defendant’s vehicle or other vehicles—can all be potential plaintiffs. For example, a defendant’s decision to drive while intoxicated foreseeably places all these individuals at risk of being harmed in an accident. It’s unlikely that others not using the road would be harmed, however. For example, if the driver hit a utility pole, causing a black out in a nearby neighborhood, which resulted in a homeowner falling down stairs in the dark, the homeowner would likely not be a foreseeable plaintiff and could therefore not recover.
Determining who is liable for an injury is also important. Any and all individuals that are a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s injuries are liable for those injuries to some extent. Sometimes, the cause of the accident is obvious. An example of this would be when a single driver collides with a pedestrian legally and reasonably crossing the street. In other circumstances, it can be quite difficult to determine which individual or individuals are responsible. A pile-up crash is a good example. The very last car in the pile up fails to act reasonably by following too closely and strikes a car stopped just before it. If the chain reaction causes other stopped cars to collide, the first driver will be responsible for all those injured. However, the other drivers may also be responsible if they too followed to closely or failed to pay proper attention. Discovering exactly what happened will determine who is liable and this is can be a very complex task.
Two common occurrences concerning defendants are worth mentioning. First, a passenger in a vehicle is allowed to sue both a driver that carelessly causes an accident and the driver of the vehicle the passenger was in if both drivers were careless. Second, when a hit-and-run accident occurs, the injured party may be able to recovery from his own insurance company if he has purchased uninsured motorist protection.
Just as the actions of multiple defendants may each be a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff’s actions may also be a substantial factor. When this is the case, the plaintiff will be found partially at fault for the accident. The effect of this in Kansas is generally a reduction in the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover. However, if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, any recovery is barred.
Remember that even if a defendant is careless, he or she won’t be liable unless they actually cause injury to a plaintiff. What happens if a defendant’s carelessness causes the plaintiff to collide with an object or another driver? The answer depends on the particular facts of each occurrence, but simply because the defendant’s vehicle doesn’t collide with plaintiff (or her vehicle) does not automatically bar recovery. A defendant may quickly switch lanes in front of the plaintiff, leaving the plaintiff no choice but to collide with defendant. There, defendant is still the proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries because his actions brought about the injuries. The same is true if plaintiff is forced to swerve into another car or object, such as a barricade. The jury will ultimately determine if plaintiff’s reaction to defendant’s carelessness was justified—meaning no fault is attributed to plaintiff—or was also careless—meaning some degree of fault may also be attributed to plaintiff.
Car accidents are a common occurrence. When the careless actions of another driver have caused you injury, there can be a lot of questions. Only by contacting capable and experienced legal counsel can all these questions be answered. An attorney will be able to look at the facts of your case to determine who you can recover from and ensure full, fair redress is recovered.
For more information on Car Accident Claims In Kansas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (913) 451-9500 today.
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