When driving, most Californians seek to avoid accidents and choose to drive safely. Simple steps, such as obeying all speed limits and signs, always using turn signals and checking the car’s mirrors every six to eight seconds, can help drivers prevent collisions. Unfortunately, not all motorists choose to drive carefully and can cause a car accident, even with the safest driver.
California’s legal system is designed to prevent negligent drivers from getting away with the damage that they caused. Recently, a California civil jury awarded $10 million to the family of a 66-year-old woman killed in an auto accident. The negligent driver crashed into the victim’s car. As a result of the collision, the victim’s foot was trapped on the gas pedal. The victim’s car accelerated quickly and crashed into a tree and a utility pole. The jury found that the negligent driver’s actions caused the victim’s death, and held her liable.
Filing a negligence lawsuit may allow car accident victims to recover damages from a negligent driver. The victim must prove four things: (1) the driver owed a duty of care to the victim; (2) the driver breached that duty through his actions; (3) the driver’s actions caused the accident; and (4) the victim was harmed as a result of the accident.
A driver’s actions caused an accident if the driver’s actions were the cause in fact for the accident and if the driver’s actions were the proximate cause of the accident. Cause in fact means that “but-for” the driver’s actions, the accident would not have occurred. Proximate cause means that the accident was reasonably foreseeable based on the driver’s actions.
For example, if a blue car rear-ends a red car, and the red car drives into a ditch, the red car would not have driven into the ditch “but-for” the blue car’s actions. It was also reasonably foreseeable that rear-ending the red car would cause the driver to lose control and drive off of the road. Therefore, the driver of the blue car caused the accident.
All elements of a negligence claim must be met for a victim of a car accident to recover damages. Filing a negligence lawsuit may be the first step to recovering damages from a negligent driver.
Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Jury awards $10 million in Toyota death case but absolves automaker.”