It only takes a minor lapse in judgment or a momentary distraction to cause a serious auto accident. In fact, nearly one in five auto accidents that occur within the United States are the result of distracted driving. If you're not careful, it's easy to find yourself at fault for an accident you could have avoided.
When the injured party decides to file a lawsuit against you, it's important to know what you may be up against and the actions you should take to properly defend yourself.
What Lawsuits Could You Potentially Face?
A typical lawsuit filed in the aftermath of an auto accident may be based on the following:
- Negligence or carelessness – A failure to exercise reasonable care or caution while you're behind the wheel could lead to the other party filing suit based on negligence or carelessness.
- Gross negligence – Gross negligence is generally defined as the lack of even the most basic care or diligence or greater than usual carelessness. Gross negligence is usually argued by those seeking punitive damages. When a lawsuit is filed based on gross negligence, it's possible for the other party's passengers to seek compensation based on their state's automotive guest laws.
- Willful or wanton acts – If the accident involved a high degree of recklessness or wanton disregard for others' safety (such as during a road rage incident), the other party may file a lawsuit based on willful or wanton misconduct.
Who Could Be Involved?
As the driver, it's more than likely that you'll be principally liable for your actions leading up to the accident in question. However, you're not the only person who could be sued in the aftermath of the accident:
- The owner of the automobile can also be sued, provided the owner is proven liable for the driver's careless behavior. The injured party must provide grounds for said liability, notably by proving the vehicle was being driven with the owner's consent or that the owner had some form of agency over the driver (such as a teenaged driver using a parent's vehicle).
- Employers can also be sued for negligence on part of an employee operating one of their vehicles. However, an employee must be acting within the scope of their employment in order for the employer to be held as a responsible party.
- Even the passengers in your vehicle can be sued based on joint adventure, a legal theory where two or more people are traveling under a common interest. Under this theory, the driver's negligence could have been caused by a passenger's actions, making them liable alongside the driver.
- Surprisingly, some states have statutes that hold child motorists to the same standards as their adult counterparts. Therefore, child motorists can be held liable for their negligent actions on the road.
What You Should Do
If you are involved in an auto accident and you suspect you may be at fault, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Don't admit fault – That's for the insurance companies and the courts to decide. Admitting fault makes your case open and shut in the injured party's favor.
- Collect contact information from witnesses – Get the names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of those who've witnessed the accident take place.
- Don't discuss the accident with anyone other than law enforcement – The only questions you should be answering are those asked by a sworn police officer responding to the scene.
- Don't forget to file a claim – By doing so in a timely manner, your insurer will be obligated to aid you in defense of a lawsuit. This is especially important if the accident results in property damage or personal injury.
- Contact your attorney – You'll need your attorney's legal advice and acumen to defend yourself against legal action.
Following the above steps can help you prepare for your day in court, especially if there's significant evidence that reduces or absolves your responsibility for the accident in question. Contact professionals at a site like http://www.sarklawfirm.com/ for more information.