The below information was written by our personal injury lawyers in Virginia Beach.
Negligence is the failure to use ordinary care, which is the care a reasonable person would use under the circumstances of the case. Most car accident cases are based on a claim of negligence, meaning the plaintiff is claiming injury caused by a defendant who did not conduct himself or herself as a reasonable person would have.
To make a case of negligence against a defendant in a personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove four elements:
(1) That the defendant had a duty, which is a legal obligation that is owed or due to another that needs to be satisfied. In car accident cases in Virginia, the duty of the defendant driver is usually established either by the Virginia Code or an opinion of a Court. A driver’s duties include obeying traffic signals, maintaining a proper lookout, maintaining a lawful speed, maintaining a proper following distance, etc.
(2) That the defendant breached one or more of his or her duties. A breach is a violation or infraction of a law or obligation. In car accident cases, a breach of a duty can occur if a driver fails to obey a traffic signal, fails to maintain a proper lookout, exceeds the posted speed limit, operates his or her vehicle at a speed that is unsafe for the circumstances, fails to maintain a proper following distance, etc.
(3) That the defendant’s breach of his or her duty was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s claimed injuries. A proximate cause of an injury is a cause that, in natural and continuous sequence, produces the accident, injury, or damage. It is a cause without which the injury would not have occurred.
(4) That the plaintiff suffered damage. In the personal injury context, the damage is an injury to the plaintiff’s body. Injuries resulting from an automobile accident can range from minor sprains and strains to catastrophic injury or death. Damage to a plaintiff may also include the extent to which a condition that pre-existed the accident was aggravated; however, a plaintiff cannot recover for the pre-existing condition.
The question of whether a defendant was negligent is specific to the facts of the individual case, and even if a plaintiff can prove all of the elements of negligence listed above, there are a multitude of potential defenses to the plaintiff’s claim that may be applicable, depending on the facts of the case. An experienced personal injury lawyer should be consulted to determine if the elements of negligence are present in the plaintiff’s case and if there are potential defenses to the injured person’s claim.
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Also see In Virginia, if a vehicle is unlawfully stopped in the roadway, can a person injured in a car accident with that unlawfully stopped vehicle always make a successful claim for personal injuries?
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