In a recent car accident in Panama City, Florida, a driver and passenger were injured after the car went off the road and then overturned several times. There were no other cars involved in the accident. Following the accident, the driver was reportedly charged with careless driving and driving with a suspended license unknowingly. Later on the passenger was admitted to a local hospital. Stories such as these present an interesting legal question. Can someone injured in an accident make a personal injury claim when there are no other cars involved?
A typical auto accident involves at least two cars and two drivers. Most of the time it is clear that one of the drivers is at fault, while the other is a victim.. Generally, the person at fault is responsible for paying for the damage to the driver who is not at fault. A competent professional attorney can help ensure that the injured parties in an accident get paid fair and just compensation for pain, suffering, and damages. But when no other cars are involved, how can an injured passenger recover for their pain and suffering?
Negligence in General
There are four parts to a negligence case under Florida law. First, each of us owes a duty of reasonable care to everyone else. Second, someone is negligent when they breach that duty of reasonable care and acts unreasonably. The third and fourth parts of negligence happen when a person breaches their duty to act reasonably and causes damage to an innocent bystander. After all four parts of negligence are proven, the person at fault should fairly compensate any victim for their pain and suffering.
When these negligence principles are applied to a typical car accident, we can see how negligence law works. For example, if a person driving behind you fails to brake in time and hits you from behind, causing you a spinal cord injury, the driver from behind should pay to make you whole. The driver had a duty to stop in time, failed, and caused damage.
The same principle applies to an accident involving only one car. For example, if you were the passenger of a car and the driver decided to send a text message while driving (illegal to do in Florida) and as a result ran into a telephone pole injuring you, then you should be compensated by the driver. That should be the result, even when there are no other cars involved. In this case the driver had a duty to drive responsibly, failed, and now you are suffering as a result.
Innocent Bystander or Negligent Contributor
There can be a wrinkle to the scenarios presented above. While it is true that people who act negligently should compensate their victims, sometimes the victims are partly at fault. Lets use the texting while driving example we mentioned earlier to illustrate. Imagine if while the driver sent a text, you put your phone in the driver’s face and partly caused the accident. Then you would be partly at fault. Florida law calls this “contributory negligence.” Under this example you may still have a claim, but your compensation would likely be reduced by the amount you contributed to the overall accident. We will delve deeper into this issue of contributory negligence in a future post.
Contact a Competent Attorney
If you have been in an accident, whether it involved one or more cars, and whether you may be partly at fault, contact a professional attorney to help you. At The Pittman Firm, Wes Pittman has the experience needed when it comes to sorting out all of the many issues involved in a negligence case.
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