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Car accidents: What is negligence?

The typical private citizen in the United States who suffers catastrophic injuries in a motor vehicle accident cannot hope to personally finance the costs associated with his or her medical care, nor the long-term costs of physical rehabilitation programs that follow this care. This is why drivers must carry car insurance -- to pay for the financial costs associated with the injuries they cause to other individuals as a result of their own fault, negligence or unlawful behavior.

In order to receive financial compensation from an at-fault driver, however, injured plaintiffs may need to establish the fault or liability of the other party. The primary way of doing this involves proving that a party (or parties) were negligent, and this negligence caused or contributed to the accident and injuries.

How do injured plaintiffs establish negligence?

To establish negligence after car accident injuries, plaintiffs must show that the at-fault party caused their injuries by failing to fulfill a duty owed to the plaintiff. In essence, everyone has a duty to take reasonable action to prevent dangers that could cause someone else to get hurt. In addition, every reasonable person will try to prevent harm to others.

Reasonableness in this context is judged by comparing the defendant's actions (or inaction) to the way another average person or party would have acted to prevent injury to others if placed in a similar position. For example, would a reasonable person have avoided driving drunk, speeding, texting-while-driving or swerving in and out of traffic in order to prevent an accident and injury to others in this context? If the answer is "yes," then the defendant is likely at fault and financially liable for the damages caused by his or her behavior.

Potentially negligent parties could include drivers, employers of drivers, car manufacturers, auto parts manufacturers, cities that maintain the safety of roads and more.

Were you hurt in a motor vehicle accident?

If you suffered serious injuries in a car accident that wasn't your fault, you may be able to pursue legal action to pursue financial damages in court. The more you understand about the facts of your case -- and how California fault and liability laws apply to your facts -- the better you'll be able to navigate your legal proceedings.

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