driver honking on horn in accident

Were You Hit by a Negligent Driver?

Were You Hit by a Negligent Driver? Negligent drivers cause thousands of collisions in Ohio every year. Many of those crashes result in serious and deadly injuries to others, including motorists and pedestrians. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, more than 1,200 people were killed in fatal crashes in the state in 2021. Thousands more people suffered nonfatal injuries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that motor vehicle occupants are most frequently injured in collisions with negligent drivers. At the same time, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists can also sustain injuries. If you were hit by a negligent driver, what information do you need? It will be important to learn more about negligent driving in general, proving a driver’s liability for a collision, and seeking compensation for your injuries.

How Do I Know if a Driver is Negligent?

How can you know for sure if another driver is negligent? Many auto accidents are caused by driver error. At the same time, other causes of motor vehicle collisions can exist. For example, negligent road repair or negligent vehicle maintenance can cause a crash.

After you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision that you believe was caused by another motorist, you may be certain that the other driver’s negligence caused the crash. Yet proving with certainty that the other driver’s negligence resulted in the collision may not always be a straightforward process. The Ohio Department of Insurance clarifies that negligence is “defined as the failure to exercise the degree of care required of a reasonable and prudent person in any given circumstances resulting in injury or damage to another.” What does this mean in a car accident case?

Generally speaking, all drivers must exercise a level of care behind the wheel that a reasonable driver would consider appropriate under the circumstances. Reasonable and prudent drivers obey traffic laws, and they avoid distractions and other dangers that could cause accidents and injuries. In addition, reasonable and prudent drivers recognize that they may need to change an approach based on the circumstances. For instance, if a storm suddenly brings heavy rain or snow, it is prudent to slow down. Or, for example, if there is a significant amount of traffic, a reasonable driver would pay more attention to stopping vehicles. A reasonable and prudent driver adapts to the circumstances.

What are Some Examples of Negligent Driving in Ohio?

Negligent driving can take many different forms in Ohio. Whenever a motorist fails to act as a reasonable and prudent driver would under the circumstances, that motorist could be negligent. When a driver is negligent, that driver can be liable for injuries and property damage in a crash. Common examples of negligent driving in Ohio include but are not limited to the following:

  • Drunk driving;
  • Drugged driving;
  • Running a red light;
  • Speeding;
  • Following too closely behind another car;
  • Running a stop sign;
  • Weaving in traffic on a highway;
  • Texting while driving;
  • Talking on a handheld phone while driving;
  • Eating while driving;
  • Grooming while driving;
  • Driving after getting too little sleep;
  • Failing to pull over after briefly falling asleep at the wheel;
  • Forgetting to have a recalled part replaced in the car; or
  • Knowing of a mechanical issue and failing to have it repaired.

These are just some examples of negligent driving in Ohio. To determine whether a driver might be negligent, you can ask yourself: would a reasonable and prudent driver have acted differently under the circumstances? Or you can consider, would a reasonable and prudent driver believe this motorist was careless?

What are My Options After Being Hit by a Negligent Driver?

After you have been injured in a collision caused by a negligent driver, you have options. Many people who are harmed in crashes caused by negligent drivers will begin the process of seeking financial compensation by filing an auto insurance claim. Since Ohio is an at-fault or tort state, you may be able to file a third-party or first-party claim. In a third-party claim, you will file an auto insurance claim with the negligent driver’s insurance. With a first-party claim, you will file an auto insurance claim through your own policy. Sometimes an auto insurance claim can provide you with full compensation for losses. In other circumstances, especially when injuries are serious, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit.

If an auto insurance claim is insufficient to cover your losses, you may be able to sue the negligent driver. In addition to filing a car accident lawsuit against a negligent driver, another party could also be liable. For example, if the negligent driver was working at the time of the crash, the employer could be liable. Or, for instance, if the negligent driver borrowed another party’s car, the car owner could be liable. It will be important to determine all potentially liable parties to your claim. Depending upon the circumstances, you could be eligible to sue one or more parties to seek financial compensation.

How Do I Prove a Driver Was Negligent?

Following a collision caused by a negligent driver, you will often need to prove that the other driver was negligent and therefore responsible for the crash. There are multiple ways you may be able to prove negligence. To consider those options, it is important to understand the elements of a negligence claim. In general, you will need to be able to prove the following elements of a car accident negligence claim:

  • Duty of care, meaning the driver owed you a duty of care (this is true whenever a person gets behind the wheel of a car);
  • Breach of the duty of care, meaning the driver acted negligently, or failed to act as a reasonable and prudent driver would have under the circumstances;
  • Driver’s negligence caused your injuries; and
  • You suffered damages as a result of the driver’s negligence and your injuries.

How can you prove these elements of a negligence claim, including that the driver was negligent? You may be able to use any of the following as evidence in your case:

  • Witness statements;
  • Photographs from the scene of the accident;
  • Police report;
  • Cell phone data if distracted driving caused the crash;
  • Breathalyzer or chemical test results if drunk driving caused the accident;
  • Red light camera images;
  • Traffic surveillance cameras; and
  • Medical records.

What Should I Do to Gather Evidence After a Careless Motorist Causes a Collision?

You will need to gather evidence to prove that the other driver was negligent. How can you gather this evidence? Consider the following steps:

  • Obtain the names and contact information for any witnesses who may have seen the accident happen;
  • Take pictures at the scene of the accident;
  • See a doctor as soon as possible and have a medical assessment;
  • Obtain copies of any police reports;
  • Work with an accident reconstruction expert; and
  • Seek relevant data, such as the negligent driver’s cell phone records or red light camera images.

Can My Own Negligence Affect My Claim?

Even if a negligent driver is the primary cause of a collision and your resulting injuries, your own negligence can affect your case. Ohio uses what is known as a modified comparative fault or comparative negligence rule. To be clear, in Ohio, the term “comparative negligence” is used to describe how a person’s recovery can be reduced or barred based on their own negligence. According to the Ohio Department of Insurance, “comparative negligence allows a person to recover damages as reduced by the person’s own percentage of negligence.” Under Ohio law, “if a party is more than 50% at fault, recovery is not allowed.” However, as long as a plaintiff is 50% or less at fault, that plaintiff can recover damages from a negligent driver. In circumstances where a plaintiff is negligent but is 50% or less at fault, the plaintiff’s damages award will be reduced by the amount of the plaintiff’s own negligence.

How does comparative negligence work in an Ohio car accident case? Imagine that a negligent driver causes a crash by drinking and driving, or by running a red light or sending a text while driving. As a result of that driver’s negligence, a collision happens and occupants of the other vehicle are injured. Now imagine that the driver of the other vehicle was speeding at the time of the accident. The negligent driver might say the speeding driver is also at fault. Even if the court decides that speeding contributed to the crash, the speeding driver (i.e., the plaintiff) can recover damages as long as that driver is not more than 50% at fault.

What will the damages award look like in that type of scenario? Imagine the court awards the plaintiff $100,000 in damages. However, the court agrees that, due to the plaintiff’s speeding, the plaintiff was partially negligent, too. The court might say that the plaintiff was 10% at fault for the crash. Under these circumstances, the $100,000 damages award would be reduced by 10% (i.e., the plaintiff’s portion of fault). As such, the plaintiff would ultimately recover $90,000.

As the Ohio Department of Insurance points out, Ohio used to use a pure contributory negligence rule. Under that old rule, if a plaintiff was even one percent at fault or one percent negligent, the plaintiff could not recover. However, that rule was changed in 1980. Accordingly, for the last 40+ years, a plaintiff’s own negligence has not barred recovery as long as the plaintiff was not more than 50% at fault.

When Do I Need to File a Negligent Driver Claim?

If you want to seek financial compensation after a negligent driver causes a crash, you will need to file a claim quickly. Most auto insurance companies will require you to initiate the claims process within a particular amount of time. You should check with your insurance company and the details of your policy. More importantly, Ohio law limits the amount of time you have to file a car accident lawsuit.

Under Ohio law, the statute of limitations on most negligent driver lawsuits is two years. The clock on the statute of limitations will start to tick on the date of the accident. From that date moving forward, you will have two years to file your lawsuit. To be clear, your lawsuit does not need to be resolved within that time period. Rather, you will need to make sure that you have filed and initiated your lawsuit within that two-year window. What if you miss the time window and the clock on the statute of limitations runs out? In most cases, your lawsuit will become time-barred. When a claim is time-barred, you cannot obtain compensation any longer by filing a civil lawsuit.

To avoid a situation in which your claim becomes time-barred, you should get started on your case as quickly as possible. While two years might seem like a lot of time, the insurance claims process can take quite some time. In addition, valuable evidence can be lost if you wait too long to file.

Contact a Butler County, Ohio Auto Accident Lawyer

Negligent drivers cause far too many crashes in Ohio. From distracted driving to intoxicated driving, motorist negligence takes many different forms. After getting hurt in an auto accident, it can be extremely frustrating to have to deal with an insurance claim or a lawsuit. When another driver is at fault, you should be able to obtain the compensation you need.

Our dedicated Butler County auto accident lawyers know how important it is to have the process go as smoothly as possible. Our firm is here to assist you every step of the way. We can evaluate your case to determine negligence. Our dedicated attorneys can also speak with you about how to prove the other driver’s negligence, and we can ensure that your claim is filed in a timely manner. Contact the law firm of Kruger & Hodges today to get started on your claim. We serve clients in Hamilton, Ohio and throughout Butler County.

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