In its most recognized and simplest form, an automobile accident involves one driver accusing another driver of causing an accident. Generally speaking, when there is an accident, the at-fault driver is liable to pay for the damages suffered by the personal injury victim. This is the concept of legal negligence. The problem usually boils down to figuring out who was, in fact, legally responsible. This can be pretty complicated, especially when certain defenses can be raised.
What is Legal Negligence?
According to Colorado law, legal negligence occurs when a driver’s behavior falls short of the conduct of a “reasonable person.” The “reasonable person” standard is a legal fiction created to define our community’s views on how a reasonable person in the community should have behaved in a given situation. In determining whether a driver was sufficiently careful, it is necessary to ask how a reasonable, prudent person would have behaved in the same or similar circumstances. If the driver’s behavior falls short of this standard, the other driver has violated the duty of reasonable care and is legally negligent.
How is Legal Negligence Proven?
To win a negligence action in court, you must be able to prove four elements: (1) a legal duty or obligation; (2) breach of that duty; (3) a causal connection between the acts of the at-fault driver and the damages or harm sustained; and (4) damages showing there was financial loss.
To help demonstrate legal negligence, imagine a scenario when a driver runs a red light. When that driver enters the intersection, his vehicle collides into a vehicle that was proceeding on a green light. The impact of the collision causes serious injuries to the driver of the second vehicle. In applying the elements of legal negligence, the duty owed is that of all drivers to obey the rules of the road and drive carefully so others are not put in danger. The at-fault driver breached the duty owed when he ran the red light. The factual connection is that the first driver’s act of running the red light directly caused the injuries to the other driver. Damages are demonstrated by showing property damage to the vehicle and/or injury to the other driver.
A negligence action can be proven through direct or circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence does not require making inferences and proves or disproves facts directly. An example of direct evidence includes an eyewitness that saw the events unfold and, therefore, has firsthand knowledge. Another example of direct evidence would be a video of the accident. Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, requires the drawing of inferences and does not prove or disprove a fact directly. An example of circumstantial evidence includes a photograph of damage incurred by a vehicle.
Are There Defenses to Legal Negligence?
The primary responsibility of police and any subsequent investigation following a car accident is figuring out who was unreasonable under the circumstances. The answer is not always easy to figure out and the facts might not be as black and white as the above-example shows. Usually, a defendant tries to refute one of the four elements that the plaintiff is trying to prove. The defendant will try to show (1) that there was no duty owed, (2) that reasonable care was exercised, (3) that there was no direct factual link or (4) that the plaintiff did not suffer damages as alleged.
Under traditional law, the defendant can also raise the defense of comparative negligence. Comparative negligence is raised when both parties contributed to the accident and damages should be apportioned based on the allocation of fault. When a plaintiff raises this defense, it is incumbent upon them to show the other party’s conduct also fell below certain standards of care. In the case above, for instance, if the facts change so the driver of the second vehicle was talking on the phone while eating a cheeseburger and reading the paper, an argument could be made that he contributed to the negligence.
The defendant may also raise a defense of assumption of risk. This is raised when a plaintiff “assumed the risk” when involved or engaged in some dangerous activity. When this defense is raised, the attorney needs very specific information about the accident, the plaintiff, and his behavior or mindset on the day of the accident. Demonstrating a plaintiff assumed a risk could act as a complete bar to recovery for the other party.
Hire our Personal Injury Lawyers to Help Prove Negligence
Because proving negligence and minimizing fault in a personal injury case is vital to a successful resolution, it is important to speak to personal injury lawyers who understand legal negligence. The Denver personal injury lawyers of Bowman & Chamberlain, LLC, are well-versed in Colorado law and strive on investigating an accident to help establish legal negligence. We represent our clients compassionately and respectfully. To schedule a free consultation, contact our attorneys today at 720.863.6904 or email us. Our lawyers handle a wide range of personal injury cases, including Motor Vehicle Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents, Slip & Fall Accidents, and Dog Bites & Attacks. We service Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Commerce City, Lakewood, Littleton, Thornton, Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and other parts of metropolitan Denver, Colorado.
Owner and Managing Attorney
Jerry Bowman, J.D., M.A., Owner and managing attorney of Bowman Law LLC, takes his responsibility to the legal profession seriously and dedicates his time and effort to providing quality and competent legal representation to clients in Denver and throughout all of Colorado. He holds an MA in Political Science from Wayne State University and earned his law degree in two and a half years from Michigan State University College of Law.