In a car accident lawsuit, you, the plaintiff, are trying to prove to a jury that the defendant is responsible for the financial losses (including pain and suffering you went through) that were incurred because of the accident. The defendant, on the other hand, will defend him or herself by trying to show that the wreck was not their fault or the damages you are seeking are too high and that you deserve less money than you are asking for. Before you go to trial, or even before you file a lawsuit with the court, it may be possible to convince the defendant or his or her insurance company that it is their responsibility to compensate you for your losses. If you, with the help of your personal injury lawyer, can accomplish this, then you can collect your money while avoiding a costly and stressful litigation process and potential trial. Whether or not your case goes to trial, the Kansas City car accident lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC can help you present your evidence in a persuasive manner that will show the defendant and his or her insurance company know that you mean business.
The Four Elements You Must Prove in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In order to prevail in a personal injury lawsuit in both Kansas and Missouri, of which car accident lawsuits are just one type, you need to prove the following four elements:
- Duty of Care: You must show that the defendant had a duty of care toward you. In a car accident case, this means that it was the defendant’s responsibility to drive carefully and avoid injuring others on the road. This requires you to show that the defendant had an obligation to drive safe.
- Breach of the Duty of Care: You must prove that the defendant did something or failed to do something, and that this choice by the defendant caused the accident. This means that the defendant did not uphold the duty of care. In a car accident lawsuit, that could mean that the defendant ran a stop sign, drove drunk, or changed lanes without checking her mirrors, for example.
- Causation between the breach of duty and your damages: You must demonstrate that you were injured in the accident that the defendant caused because he or she breached the standard or care. This requires you to show that the injuries you complain of were the result of the car wreck.
- Damages: You must indicate that you incurred financial losses because of the injuries you suffered in the car accident. In car accident cases, the financial losses are usually in the form of medical expenses. lost income, and pain and suffering.
Types of Evidence in Car Accident Cases
Without evidence, disputes over how a car accident occurred and the damages associated with them are just one person’s word against the other’s. When you are trying to negotiate a settlement with the defendant or his or her insurance company before you file a lawsuit, your car accident lawyer uses evidence to persuade the defendant that they should compensate you for your accident-related financial losses. Evidence can include data retrieved from the car, video footage, or third-party witnesses to name a few. If you end up filing a lawsuit because the parties could not agree on a fair settlement then you will then try to convince the jury that you should prevail based on the evidence you presented at trial.
Here are a few of the main types of evidence acceptable in trials involving car accidents:
- Physical Evidence: In car accident cases, physical evidence is usually photos and videos of the scene of the accident or of your injuries. (In other types of cases, such as criminal cases, physical evidence might be a weapon, a bag of drugs, or any other physical object that supports the case the lawyer is trying to make.) This evidence also include the car itself so you can show where it was hit (and data can be pulled to show if someone was speeding).
- Medical Records and Bills: In a car accident case, your medical records and bills are crucial to proving up your economic damages. So are your wages losses that can be shown by your financial records, which show how much you have suffered financially because of your inability to work.
- Your Testimony: Your testimony is crucial for informing a jury how the car wreck impacted your life and how your life has changed since the wreck. At the advice of counsel, you should keep a journal documenting how difficult your life has become because of the accident (for example, if you now need a family member’s help to get dressed or take a bath, or if you can no longer drive). Because trials can be scheduled years after the wreck, it is good to have written down your thoughts after the wreck occurred to refresh your memory ahead of trial.
- Witness Testimony: The witnesses in a car accident case can be eyewitnesses to the accident, doctors who treated you, or doctors who did not treat you but are being summoned as expert witnesses. Both parties’ lawyers have a chance to ask questions to each witness during the trial.
The Preponderance of Standard of Evidence in Missouri Car Accident Lawsuits
If your case goes to trial, you will win your case if you show by preponderance of the evidence that it was the defendant's fault and that you were damaged because of the fault of that defendant. A preponderance of the evidence standard means that it is more likely than not that your claims are true. This is a lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the standard of evidence used in criminal cases. A lower standard is appropriate in civil cases, including car accident lawsuits, because no one will go to jail if they lose the case; the only thing at stake is money. It may sound easy to prove that there is a 51% chance that the defendant caused your injuries, but the defendant and their lawyers will try to cast doubt on all the evidence you present.
Is the Evidence Admissible in Court?
In order for evidence to be admissible (acceptable) in court, it must be relevant and reliable and must not mislead or prejudice the jury. The Daubert standard, which sets requirements about scientific methodology, determines which expert witness testimony is admissible; the judge will exclude testimony that does not meet this standard. If the defendant wants to present false or unfair evidence, your lawyer can file a motion for the judge to exclude this evidence ahead of trial in what is called a “motion in limine.” The definitions of “relevant” and “prejudicial” are somewhat subjective, so some cases involve many motions to exclude evidence that one side wants to present. If you think that the defendant’s evidence is unfair, prejudicial, or does not conform to the Daubert standard, your lawyer may be able to argue that the defendant should not present it at trial.
Have You Been Injured in a Kansas City Car Accident?
If you've been hurt in a Kansas City car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.