Pennsylvania residents who pursue civil remedies after being injured in a car accident normally base their lawsuits on negligence. Negligence is a tort motorists commit when they fail to take reasonable care and another person is harmed as a direct consequence of their actions. This means that car accident victims hoping to prevail in court must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care that went unmet. They must then convince a jury that their injuries would not have been suffered had this not happened.
All drivers are required to do everything that they reasonably can to avoid crashing, so the defendants in car accident lawsuits rarely argue that they did not have a duty of care. Matters tend to become more contentious when the issue of whether or not this duty was met is addressed. Motorists who are involved in traffic accidents may not be held responsible if a well-maintained car had some sort of catastrophic malfunction or they steered sharply to avoid striking a child who ran into the roadway unexpectedly.
However, these situations are rare, and human error of some kind usually plays a role. When drivers who crash are intoxicated, ran through a red light or exceeded the posted speed limit, police reports may provide car accident victims the evidence of negligence they need. When no laws were broken, vehicle inspections could reveal that needed maintenance was not performed or repairs were not properly made.
Arguments over whether or not injuries were a direct consequence of negligent actions can be complex. While it may be straightforward to establish that an individual would not have been injured had an accident not occurred, the nature and extent of their injures could be the subject of contentious argument. The defendants in negligence actions may argue that the plaintiffs could have avoided injury entirely or been far less seriously hurt if they took evasive action or were wearing their seat belts. This is known as comparative negligence and it can influence the damages awarded. Experienced personal injury attorneys may anticipate comparative negligence claims and call on accident reconstruction experts or doctors to counter them.