Even Pros Get Into Car Accidents

Dec 9, 2014

Cam Newton’s car accident reminds us that no matter how great our reflexes, that a car accident can happen to any of us. As an Atlanta Car Wreck Lawyer and Truck Wreck Lawyer, I see how even the healthiest and strongest people can be sidelined when multi-thousand pound cars collide with each other, objects, or rollover. Seatbelts, airbags and crash worthy design and construction reduce injuries, but there is simply no way to completely eliminate them. Hopefully, Cam Newton is not seriously injured. And hopefully, the other driver too escapes with minimal consequences. Not that I am encouraging litigation of any kind, but this is a good opportunity to talk about the consequences of a car or truck wreck. There are two legal areas involved – criminal and civil. The criminal issues in most cases are handled with traffic tickets. Of course if there is a death, or intoxication, the consequences for the at fault driver can be much worse than a fine. Even though there is a victim (the innnocent driver and passengers) a crime is actually committed against the state. Criminal charges, including speeding tickets, must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal charges are not usually admissible in civil cases, nor are convictions, or pleas of nolo contendre (i.e. no contest). With respect to car wrecks, civil cases can proceed regardless of whether crimial charges (i.e. a ticket) was issued or not, and it really doesn’t matter if the other driver is found innocent or guilty either. The one exception being that a voluntary guilty plea is admissible to help prove the case in a civil trial. In a civil case, the proof only needs to be a preponderance of the evidence. This is just enough to incline the mind to one side or the other of the issue. While some criminal prosecutions involve payment to the victim, most do not. Instead, the parties are left to work it out in the civil system. This is usually done by working with the careless driver’s insurer. Again, there are two issues – property damage and bodily injury. An insurer might well pay property damage, and then fight paying bodily injury claims. The property damage claim usually consists of the repair, plus the depreciation, plus the loss of use (rental car). The bodily injury claim includes lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Because at fault drivers often don’t have enough insurance, it is a good idea to maintain uninsured motorist coverage. Using the Cam Newton example, if he loses wages it will likely be well above what many people have as insurance coverage. I certainly hope he thought to buy uninsured motorist coverage! When the insurance company does not agree to pay a fair amount, a law suit needs to filed. It is filed against the at fault driver and not against his insurer, unless he is a long haul truck driver. Obviously, there is a great deal more to this than this short discussion includes. If you have any questions, just give us a call. We’re here to help.