Top 10 Car Accident Legal Terms

Tort

A tort is a wrongful act, or infringement of a right, that results in either damage or injury. If a person commits a tort against you, then you can bring a civil action lawsuit against them for compensation for any damages you suffered as a result of their wrongful act.

Liability

Liability refers to legal responsibility or the state or being responsible for something, especially by law. The driver who caused the accident will be “liable,” which means that they will be legally responsible for any personal injury or property damage that results from the accident.

Negligence

The failure to take proper care in doing something. A driver is negligent when they fail to meet the required duty of care that all drivers must follow. All drivers have a duty to act with reasonable care when driving. If the driver breaches that duty by failing to act with reasonable care—even unintentionally—and that failure causes another person to suffer some harm.  The driver who caused the accident is negligent. Violating a traffic law in certain ways can make you negligent. “Contributory negligence” or “comparative negligence” refers to a situation in which both drivers were negligent.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is a party’s obligation to prove a charge, allegation or defense. In a car accident case, what you are able to recover often depends on what evidence you are able to show the insurance company or the court about what happened. The plaintiff cannot simply make that claim and collect money. It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to show how the accident occurred and who was at fault. The plaintiff has the burden of proving their claim with sufficient evidence. This is called the “burden of proof” and it rests with the party who is raising a claim.

Facts of Loss

A record of what happened in the car accident. One way to satisfy your burden of proof is by demonstrating “facts of loss.”  These facts are often recorded in narrative form in a police report. Any facts that you can verify to be true can be part of the record that you present to the insurance company or the court.

Insurance

Insurance is a contract or policy in which an insurer indemnifies another against losses from specific contingencies or perils. One way that you can receive compensation after an accident is by making a claim through the insurance company of the driver who was at fault. All drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of collision insurance on their insurance policy. Policy types include Collision coverage, Bodily injury coverage and Property damage coverage. If you are involved in a car accident, obtain the other driver’s insurance information so that you can submit your claim to their insurance company for the type of damage that you suffered.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

When another driver cannot cover the amount of damage you suffered in an accident, you need “Uninsured or Underinsured” motorist coverage. The purpose of this kind of plan is to make sure that insurance will still cover your damages even if the other driver who caused your accident is carrying no insurance or insufficient insurance to cover the amount of damage you suffered.

Damages

Monetary compensation that is awarded by a court in a civil action to an individual who has been injured through the wrongful conduct of another party.  Damages is also a legal term that refers generally to the amount of money paid in compensation for personal injuries, property damage, or other kinds of harm. When you sue the other driver to compensate you for the damage done to your person and your car as a result of the accident they caused, the amount of money the court awards to you is called “damages.” Damages can include medical bills, repairs to your vehicle, replacement of personal property, lost wages and even pain and suffering.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering refers to the physical discomfort and emotional distress that are compensable as noneconomic damages. It refers to the pain, discomfort, anguish, inconvenience, and emotional trauma that accompanies an injury. Pain and suffering damages refers to the amount of money that an insurance company or court believes is appropriate to compensate for psychological or emotional damage that results from the accident.

For example, if a car accident leaves the injured person with depression, anxiety related to driving, undue stress, or some other type of trauma, these symptoms can fall under the category of pain and suffering damages.

Settlement

An agreement that ends a dispute and results in the voluntary dismissal of any related litigation. In a car accident case, a settlement refers to a legal agreement between the parties involved in the accident that resolves or ends the dispute. The settlement will usually include the payment of a sum of money that both parties are willing to accept. A settlement can be an agreement that the parties make between themselves before or after a court case has been filed. A settlement also can refer to an agreement with the insurance company for a certain amount of damages. Even if one person has filed a lawsuit regarding the car accident, the two parties can come to an agreement and dismiss all litigation connected to the accident. Settlement is often a good way to avoid legal fees, so it may be an attractive option to a driver who was at fault and does not want to go to trial.