Laws of Negligence in North Carolina
Americans travel by the millions, and, as a result, car accidents occur daily. If you’ve suffered personal injury because of a motor vehicle accident, it is very likely that the law of negligence will be a critical part of your claim.
While negligence is the basis for most personal injury actions, it is possible the most misunderstood or misconstrued legal theory. As a result of how popular the law of negligence is, you should not be surprised by how much misinformation exists. Under North Carolina law, a driver has duty or obligation to operate his or her vehicle in a reasonable manner at all times. A driver must take into consideration factors such as speed, traffic, weather and visibility. In many instances, if a driver violates a traffic or driving law, that person will be considered to have breached their duty of care to other drivers if he or she causes an accident.
Generally, a party that is injured in a car accident will rely on the legal theory of negligence in order to recover compensation for his or her injuries. Should you seek compensation for your injuries by applying the theories and elements of negligence it is important to develop a well-founded foundation to support your claim. In a nutshell, asserting the theory of negligence will be the narrative that you will provide to the insurance company. Your claim to the insurance company is one that focuses on showing that negligence applies because the actions of an at-fault party negligently caused your injuries.
For a successful theory of negligence to be proven you will have to show that four elements exist. First, you will prove that the at-fault driver had a duty of care. Duty of care is a legal term that deals with the responsibility that an ordinary and prudent person has to avoid causing harm to others. Second, you will have to show that the at-fault driver breached their standard of care owned to third parties. Generally, a party who is at-fault will violate that standard of care when the action, or lack thereof, that they took failed to meet the level of reasonable care required by the law under the circumstances. Third, a person bringing a negligence claim must prove that the at-fault party’s actions caused some harm. This element is called ‘causation.’ To prove causation, you must show that at fault driver’s conduct was the cause in fact of the injury, and your injuries would not have been created but for that driver’s faulty conduct. The final element to prove negligence is to prove damages. In order for an injured party to get compensation from an at-fault driver for negligence, the plaintiff must prove these four elements.
It is important to keep in mind that in some instances determining duty of care is difficult because of the lack of laws that spell out how a reasonable person should act in certain circumstances. An example of the difficulties of determining the duty of care can be illustrated with a grocery store. A grocery store has a duty of care towards its customer in regards to their safety, but there are no specific legal guidelines on what the grocery store must do to meet that duty. Additionally, it is essential that you consider that North Carolina is a contributory negligent state before filling a suit based on a negligence claim. Contributory negligence essentially bars an injured party from receiving recovery if the damages suffered are partially their own fault. Meaning, that even if the accident or injuries that occurred are even 1% your fault you might not be able to recover damages.
Please keep in mind that this article is providing a very basic explanation of negligence. Negligence has a number of moving parts, and based on the particular facts and circumstances of each situation the outcome can vary, which makes the theory of negligence unpredictable.