Westport Car Accident Attorney
Many potential new clients call my office to ask if the accident they had is something in which would qualify them to obtain damages in court. Whether or not you can obtain damages in court is a legal question. Not all auto accidents qualify you to be able obtain damages in court.
The first question that I ask is whether my client or the other person was at fault in the collision. Connecticut has numerous statutes outlining the rules of the road for which drivers must adhere to. If a person violates one of these rules, and the violation of that rule causes the collision which causes an injury, then you have a case that will allow you to get damages in court.
One of the classic cases that I get is when someone runs a red light or a stop sign. Obviously the stop sign or red light requires a driver to stop. Often, people don’t stop for various reasons. Many people run red lights because they think they can get through the light before it turns red only to find that they have misjudged the time and distance to get through the light. Then of course this causes a collision. Also, many people don’t stop for stop signs because they are not paying attention to the road, and they don’t see the stop sign. If a person ran a red light or a stop sign and this caused a collision, then they would be liable for any damages that you might incur.
Another typical case that I encounter is the rear-ender. Often, a driver who is stopped at a red light anticipates that the car in front of him or her will go, but it doesn’t and the driver ends up hitting the car in front of him or her. These incidents also often occur on highways when there is traffic tie ups. Often a driver will be driving too fast, and when the traffic slows up in front of him, he cannot stop in time to avoid a collision.
The essence of what we call negligence is a violation of a duty of care. The Court will infer that we all have a duty of care to act reasonably to avoid doing anything that harms another person or their property. What constitutes a violation of a duty of care? It’s a violation when a person acts unreasonably. Who determines if a person has acted unreasonably? A jury does. I jury of six people in Connecticut will determine if the person who is being sued acted unreasonably. A jury composed of ordinary people from the town you live in or a surrounding town, will listen to the case and decide if a person acted unreasonably.
Of course its always easier when you have clear violation of a statute that prescribes the rules of the road in Connecticut. Clearly, if someone violated one of the rules of the road that we are all supposed to live by, then they acted unreasonably. But what about if there was no violation? Then what happens?
Essentially, you just have to make your best argument that what the other person did was unreasonable. Perhaps the other person was driving at a rate of speed that was not a violation of the speed limit, but it was too fast for the current weather and other conditions of the road. Snow storms, and rain storms are both times when people must slow down to avoid collisions with other cars. The very fact that a collision occurred is one fact to point to that suggest a person was negligent. Many people drive through snow and rain storms without getting in a collision. If a collision occurred, then that is at least some indication that the other driver was acting unreasonably. Admittedly, the collision during a snow or rain storm is not conclusive that a person must have been acting unreasonably.
What about the instance where a person backing up out of a parking space in a parking lot, but cannot see if a car is coming from either direction since the driver’s vision is blocked by cars on both sides. The only thing a driver can do is back out slowly. But often the driver coming the other way is going too fast and cannot stop in time to prevent the collision. In this instance, you would look for evidence of how fast the other driver was going, such as a skid mark, or the amount of damage to the vehicles.
The jury system is a very fair system. Most jurors are very reasonable, and can get the heart of what happened very fairly. I often find it disheartening when people criticize our court system and claim it is out of control. By giving these cases to juries, we have a fair way of having people determine their disputes. Since the question in an auto accident case is whether a driver acted reasonably, who better to make that decision than ordinary people who live in your own area. Juries are far better suited to understand what is reasonable based on the same standard that you would make yourself.
Juries are also best suited to make the decision as to how much money is appropriate in a case. Not all people are the same different people who are in a similar collision can suffer different injuries. Some people will suffer serious injuries while other may escape with little injury at all.
If you are in an auto collision, and you want to know if your collision is the kind that a court could award some money, the best question to ask is whether an ordinary person would find the other driver’s actions reasonable. For if the other driver’s actions were not part of a reasonable effort to make sure he does not harm another person, then he would have violated the duty that he owes to every member of the public. After all, the public needs protection from the people we see every day who drive down the street while texting or using their cell phones instead of watching where they are going.