auto accident law

Auto Accident Law: 10 Terms to Know

If you’ve been in a car accident, filing a claim or lawsuit becomes tough when you’re involved in a world of legalese. The specialized speaking of attorneys can often make you feel more stressed than you ought to be. To help you during this tough time, here are 10 terms you need to know about car accident law.

  1. Actual Cash Value: This is a method used to determine the value of your vehicle. This amount is taken into account when your car needs repairs following an accident. The actual cash value is determined by calculating the market value of your vehicle before it was damaged.
  2. Burden of Proof: The burden of proof is assigned to the person that has to prove what happened. In car accident cases, the burden of proof is usually the plaintiff, because they’re the one who brought the claim or lawsuit to court. It’s used to establish whether or not the other party should be held legally responsible for causing the accident.
  3. Comparative Negligence: Comparative negligence helps answer the question of fault in a case. Using this view, the percentage that someone is at fault is taken into account and is used to determine the amount of money that should is paid. If someone was 60% to blame, then they’ll have to pay 60% of the damages. 
  4. Contributory Negligence: While rare, some states still use contributory negligence to determine fault. The basic theory is that a person has to act like a reasonable person, and if they don’t act reasonably and injury occurs, then that person may be held entirely or partially at fault for damages.
  5. Emotional Distress: Emotional distress is any sort of mental distress, psychological stress, or anxiety that is caused by a car accident. In some cases, it’s possible to sue for emotional distress in court and recover damages related to mental stress.
  6. Liability: Liability is the legal term that designates responsibility. In auto accidents, both the plaintiff and defendant hold some amount of accountability and the percentage of liability is assigned to determine how much each party will pay for damages.
  7. Negligence Per Se: Negligence per se is when an action is negligent because it violates the law. An example of negligence per se would be exceeding the speed limit. If a plaintiff claims negligence per se, he or she does not need to prove that a reasonable person would have acted differently.
  8. Settlement: A settlement is an agreement that ends the claim or dispute and is usually a monetary payment that is paid by one party to the other outside of the formal legal process. It is typically used to denote how much a case is worth. Settlements are not decided by a judge but offered from one party to the other as a voluntary dismissal.
  9. Total Loss: Total loss is used when a vehicle cannot be repaired or when the cost of the repair would exceed the fair market value of the car. Many people simply refer to this as a car being “totaled.” If an auto is a total loss, the insurance company will offer the actual cash value to the owner.
  10. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance: This type of insurance is typically part of every auto insurance policy. It provides coverage if the other party in the accident is either uninsured or doesn’t have sufficient insurance to cover the bodily injuries caused by the accident. Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance provides compensation for damages in place of the other party.
Last Updated: March 29, 2017