Articles Posted in Car Accidents

In Connecticut, a plaintiff has to establish four elements in order to prove negligence in a personal injury case:  duty, a breach of that duty, causation, and damages. In general, a plaintiff has the burden to prove all four elements in a Connecticut personal injury claim.

Wrecked CarDuty refers to the legal obligation between individuals. Everyone generally must exercise reasonable care in order not to put others at an unreasonable risk of harm. All motorists owe a statutory duty of care to others to obey all motor vehicle laws and a common-law duty to operate a vehicle in a safe, careful, and responsible manner. Breach refers to when a defendant fails to live up to the standard of care in that particular situation. Causation refers to the “cause in fact” and the “proximate cause.” This means that the plaintiff’s breach has to directly cause the plaintiff’s damages, and courts will hold the defendant liable for such a breach. Damages refers to the damages the plaintiff suffers, including for example medical bills, property damage, and pain and suffering.

In addition, in cases in which the evidence shows the defendant acted with a reckless indifference to the rights of others or committed an intentional, wanton violation of those rights, the plaintiff can also recover punitive damages—additional damages that are not meant to compensate the plaintiff but instead to punish the defendant.

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Car accidents are among the leading causes of injuries in this country, and they can have devastating consequences for those involved. There are many causes of Connecticut car accidents, but most accidents are results of aggressive driving or road rage, distracted driving, or intoxicated driving. In the tragic event of the death of a loved one, wrongful death claims can help to hold others accountable for their actions and to recover compensation for losses from car accidents.

Utility PoleWrongful Death Claims

In a wrongful death action, the right to bring the case and recover damages belongs to the decedent. The right to bring a wrongful death action exists because it is seen as a continuation of the decedent’s right to assert a claim as if they had lived. A wrongful death claim can be — and often is — brought by a personal representative of the estate of the decedent.

In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff has to prove that there was a violation of the standard of care, as well as a causal relationship between the injury and the decedent’s death. Therefore, as in other negligence claims, in wrongful death claims, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is legally at fault for the accident and that the accident was the proximate cause of the injury or death.

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Earlier last month, the Connecticut Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a Connecticut car accident case requiring the court to discuss the distinction between a judge’s decision whether to admit certain evidence and the weight that evidence is afforded by the fact-finder once admitted. Ultimately, the appellate court determined that the trial court properly admitted the plaintiff’s expert witness testimony yet was within its right to assign the evidence little weight and find in favor of the defendant.

Curved RoadThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Connecticut Department of Transportation after she was involved in a car accident with a Department-owned vehicle. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that she was driving southbound on the highway when she passed the Department vehicle. As she passed the vehicle, she heard a loud bang, and the next thing she knew, her car was sliding upside-down on the highway. The plaintiff claimed that the Department was liable for the negligence of the Department employee who was operating the vehicle at the time of the accident.

The Department denied liability and maintained that the plaintiff was the one who caused the accident. The Department called the employee to testify. He explained to the court that his vehicle was pulled completely off the road and that he had engaged the vehicle’s hazard lights when the Department vehicle was struck from behind by the plaintiff’s car.

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Earlier this month, a Connecticut appellate court issued a written opinion in a motorcycle accident case that was brought by the accident victim against a museum that had arranged the classic-car drive in which the at-fault motorist was participating at the time of the accident. The appellate court was tasked with determining if the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant was proper. Ultimately, the court concluded that the lower court erred because it based its ruling on grounds that were not raised by the defendant.

Classic CarThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding his motorcycle on a Connecticut road when the defendant pulled out in front of him, causing a collision. At the time, the defendant was participating in a classic-car cruise that was arranged by the defendant museum. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver of the car as well as the museum. This case deals solely with the plaintiff’s claim against the museum, alleging that the museum was vicariously liable for the driver’s actions.

Before the case reached trial, the museum asked the court to dismiss the case, based on the fact that it did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. Specifically, the museum argued that it was not foreseeable that a participant in the cruise would run a stop sign and cause an accident. The trial court disagreed with the defendant and denied summary judgment on that basis. However, the court granted summary judgment based on the court’s own determination that public policy considerations prevented the defendant from being held liable in this situation. The court explained “to permit vicarious liability where there is no direct liability would be to accomplish indirectly that which could not be accomplished [directly].” The plaintiff appealed.

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