Can I get money for my injuries after a car accident?

Can I be compensated for my injuries after a car accident?  The answer will often depend on whether the other party acted within his standard of care under the circumstances of the accident.

If you have been injured in a car accident, you may be wondering whether you can file a claim against the other driver for your injuries.  Lawsuits stemming from motor vehicle accidents are usually filed to recover money for personal injuries and property damage.  If a person was involved in a car accident caused by another person’s carelessness or negligence, he or she has the right to be compensated for personal injuries and property damage.  In most car accident lawsuits, these monetary damages usually cover losses such as medical expenses, lost wages and property damages.   

The difference between a common accident and an act of negligence is the “standard of care” the at-fault driver exercised in a given situation. Most car accidents are due to a driver’s carelessness or negligence. It is rare that an accident occurs because of an intentional act to harm someone.  Negligence may also stem from an omission or failure to act.  Determining whether someone’s failure to engage in a standard of care that amounts to negligence justifying financial recovery is not always clear.

Negligence is commonly defined as the failure to use ordinary care under “the reasonable person standard.” A court will determine if the responsible party acted as a reasonably prudent person would, given the circumstances. In the case of a motor vehicle accident, a driver will be found negligent if he operates his vehicle in a manner amounting to a failure to exercise the care to prevent harm to others which a reasonable person would do in similar circumstances, or took action that a reasonable person would not take under similar circumstances.

For example, if a car accident occurs in freezing temperatures or during a heavy rainstorm, a court will examine the road conditions created by the weather before determining whether a driver acted with a reasonable standard of care. If ice or rain impaired the road conditions, a reasonable person would have slowed down or used his lights or windshield wipers. If the driver in question did not act in such a manner or as otherwise understood as reasonable under the circumstances, the court will find that he was negligent and financial compensation is justified. 

In Washington state the citation of a driver by the police after an accident is inadmissible to prove negligence. A ticket for speeding or failure to yield will usually not, by itself, justify a finding of negligence.  Instead, the court will evaluate the entire circumstances of the event and not rely exclusively upon the conclusions of the responding police officer.   

It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to resolve your case.  If you have been injured in a car accident, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney to understand the stages of a personal injury lawsuit.  Your attorney will deal with the other driver and his insurance company while you focus on your health and recovery.

Legal Disclaimer:  The information contained herein is not intended to be legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and my office.  By providing this information, I am not acting as your lawyer.  You should always consult with a lawyer before taking any legal action.  Feel free to me at 206-489-5778 for a free telephone consultation.