The Five Elements Of A Car Wreck Case

The Five Elements Of A Car Wreck Case

The basic elements of a vehicle collision matter come from a case which predates the automobile. A court decided Davies v. Mann in 1842. A man allowed his donkey to graze on the side of the road when another man, who was driving a wagon, “ran against the ass” and killed it. Each person blamed the other for the accident.

This case not only established the five basic elements of a car wreck claim. It also established the comparative fault defense. Today, contributory negligence is probably the most common insurance company defense in car crash claims.

A large, fast-moving motor vehicle causes much more serious injuries than a wooden wagon. So, a San Jose car accident attorney can usually obtain substantial damages in such claims. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.


Legal responsibility in a car crash case is based on the ethical responsibility in the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you). You wouldn’t want to be an accident victim, so you must try to avoid causing accidents. This duty requires drivers to obey the rules of the road and always drive defensively.

Commercial operators in California have a higher duty of care. Taxi drivers, bus drivers, Uber drivers, and other such operators have a duty of highest care. They must take extra precautions to avoid accidents and deliver their passengers safely to their destinations.


The judge usually determines legal issues, such as the duty of care in a particular case. The jury or other factfinder usually determines other matters, such as a breach of duty.

Essentially, breach is a lack of care. Not every lapse constitutes a lack of care. For example, if Sam rolls down the window while he’s driving, he is technically distracted. But most people wouldn’t consider such a lapse to be a lack of care, unless Sam was obsessively rolling all the windows in the car up and down.


Lawyers typically refer to this element as “but-for” causation. In other words, the accident wouldn’t have happened “but for” the tortfeasor’s negligence. Other factors, such as adverse weather, might contribute to the cause. But the tortfeasor’s negligence must be the primary cause, if the victim is to receive compensation.

Proximate Cause

This element is basically the legal version of cause-in-fact. Proximate cause means foreseeability. It’s foreseeable that if a car runs off the road, it might hit a pedestrian on the sidewalk. However, a medical mistake during treatment is not a foreseeable consequence of the crash. An attorney must deal with this negligence in a separate proceeding.


Victims must suffer physical injury or property damage. Near misses, although they cause severe emotional distress, normally don’t hold up in court.

This rule does not always apply. Sometimes, the zone of danger expands. For example, if parents see their children hurt in car crashes, the parents are usually entitled to compensation for their pain and suffering, even if they themselves weren’t physically hurt.

Reach Out to a Diligent Lawyer

Car crash victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in San Jose, contact Solution Now Law Firm. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.


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