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How do I prove negligence in a car accident?

If you have been involved in an accident involving two or more vehicles that you believe was the fault of another driver, you may have a legal cause of action based on negligence. This post discusses what constitutes negligence in Ohio, and how it is proven in a lawsuit.

Generally speaking, if someone owes you a legally recognizable duty of care and breaches that duty, then that person may be held negligent for any harm that you may have suffered as a result. 

To prevail in your legal claim, you will need to prove that it was more likely than not:

  1. That the other driver owed you a duty. For example, a duty, not to run a stop sign while you are driving through an intersection.
  2. That the other driver breached that duty. In the example above, you would need to show that the driver did in fact run the stop sign.
  3. That the other driver’s breach of duty was the actual cause of your injury. Put another way, that you would not have been injured but for the other driver’s breach of his or her duty to you.
  4. That the other driver should have foreseen that his or her breach of duty would in fact cause the injury that you suffered.

If you can prove all of the above elements, then you can establish a legal claim of negligence.

In settlement negotiations or in court, the other driver may raise defenses against your claim. He or she may dispute the facts of the accident as you recall them, and claim not to have been negligent. Or, he or she may claim that you were also at fault in some way that contributed to the accident.

In Ohio, when the plaintiff and the defendant accuse one another of negligence this can lead to a situation known as "comparative negligence" which, depending upon the final allocation of negligence between the parties, may affect the amount of damages the plaintiff may recover.

Although the elements of negligence in a car crash are specifically outlined in the law, those elements vary depending on the facts of each individual accident.  A thorough investigation of the facts of the accident will determine who is at fault and to what degree, carefully applying those facts to the elements of negligence.

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