If you were involved in a car accident and are filing a claim or lawsuit, you may be overwhelmed by all the insurance adjusters and personal injury attorneys using legal terms. They are well trained and know what everything means, but for you, it’s a world of new, scary information. This blog post aims to clear any confusion by providing a glossary of basic car accident legal terms.

Legal Terms You Should Be Familiar With

Actual Cash Value. In a property damage claim (needing to repair your vehicle after a car accident), using the term actual cash value is a way of saying the “market value” of the car. Basically, it’s measured by what the car would have been sold for before it was damaged in the accident. This term may come up when a vehicle is deemed a “total loss” after an accident. In this situation, the insurance company will pay the owner of the vehicle an amount equal to the car’s market value rather than paying for the car to be fixed.

Burden of Proof. This means, in a car accident case, the person bringing forth the claim or lawsuit has the obligation of establishing that the other party is liable for causing the accident or injury.

Liability. Liability designates fault for a car accident and cites who is responsible for damages. This can be established in a number of different ways in an accident case, including police reports, witness statements, and scene evidence.

Comparative/Contributory Negligence. In some cases, the car accident may not be the fault of just one individual. For instance, one driver may have been driving too fast while another was hanging too far out in an intersection trying to turn. When both parties are deemed to be at fault, a court or insurance adjuster will try to apportion fault. Recovery will be reduced based on comparative negligence.

Negligence. When someone is deemed to have been negligent, it is because he or she failed to meet a legally imposed duty of care. If the negligence causes damage or injury, he or she will be liable. Breaching the duty of care means failing to operate a vehicle in a reasonable and safe manner.

Negligence Per Se. This a term that is used to describe a careless act, and once established, no further evidence is needed to prove fault. Breaking a traffic law in a car accident case can be deemed “negligence per se.” For example, if someone is driving twice the speed limit or driving the wrong way on a one-way street and then causes an accident, negligence is very easy to establish. Negligence per se doesn’t automatically mean the other side wins the case, but generally speaking, it is very difficult for the negligent driver to get out of the presumption.

Settlement. In a car accident case, settlements are monetary payments that are offered outside of formal legal processes in order to resolve claims related to the accident. This includes the vehicle damage and any injuries. You waive your legal rights related to the incident if you sign a settlement release. You will not be able to bring forth the lawsuit again.

Total Loss. A car is considered a total loss if it cannot be repaired or if the cost of repair exceeds the value of the car itself. When this happens, insurance companies will generally offer actual cash value.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Most states will require drivers to carry this type of coverage in their automobile policy. This coverage will cover you in situations where another driver without insurance or not enough to cover damages hits you.

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