This week, our Boone County car accident lawyers were shocked and amazed by a news story about a Columbia woman who was visited by a houseguest she wasn't expecting. Rhonda Victor heard a loud noise just after she went to bed on Wednesday , and when she investigated, she discovered a Jeep in her living room.
According to a news release from the Columbia Police Department, an officer had attempted to stop the vehicle for speeding just prior to it crashing into Victor's house. The driver didn't stop, and the officer abandoned the pursuit for safety reasons after following the Jeep for 3 blocks. Immediately thereafter, the officer discovered the vehicle in Victor's living room. The keys were still in the ignition, but the driver was gone. As of this morning, that driver has not been located.
It's unbelievably fortunate that Victor had retired to her bedroom just a few minutes before the Jeep slammed into her house, as she was able to escape potentially critical injuries. Her house, however, wasn't so lucky: Kelley Klean Restoration Company estimates that the damage will cost up to $15,000 to repair.
Had Victor been injured, she would've had a relatively easy time proving negligence, which is a fundamental component of any personal injury lawsuit. Under other circumstances, demonstrating that a party was negligent can be a much more complicated affair.
• What does the term "negligence" mean?
Negligence is used to describe a party's act (or failure to act) that causes injury to an individual. For example, let's say Jim runs a red light and injures a pedestrian. An attorney can show that Jim was clearly negligent because, in running the red light, he broke the law, drove in an unsafe manner, and caused injury to a pedestrian. Jim failed to stop at the red light when he had a duty to do so.
Or let's say that Sue, while speeding, clips a bicyclist. Sue has a duty to drive within the speed limit and to give the bicyclist ample berth. Her failure to do so caused injury to the bicyclist; thus, she was negligent.
• How do I prove the other driver was negligent?
There are four prongs that you must meet to prove that the other driver was negligent:
o A duty. You must show that the other driver had a duty of care to you. Normally, it isn't difficult to prove duty, because all drivers have a duty to drive carefully and obey the traffic laws. In addition, all drivers have a "duty of reasonable care" to all other drivers and pedestrians.
o Failure to act. You must show that the other driver did not fulfill his duty to act in a certain way. For example, Jim drove through a red light, which is not what a reasonable person would do. A reasonable person would've stopped at the light, looked for cars and pedestrians, and pulled slowly into the intersection when the light turned green and the intersection was clear. Likewise, in the Columbia accident, it's clear that a reasonable person would not drive into someone's living room.
o Causation. You must show that the other driver's failure to act caused your injuries. For example, but for Sue speeding and encroaching on the bicyclist, the bicyclist would not have been injured.
o Damages. You must show that you sustained injuries. For example, the pedestrian and the bicyclist would need to prove that Jim and Sue caused them to sustain physical and emotional damages as well as property loss. These damages might include medical bills, lost wages, lost benefits, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and general damages.
Again, it's a miracle that Victor was uninjured in that strange collision on Wednesday morning. Many victims of other drivers' negligence are not so fortunate. When trying to recover losses related an auto accident injury, proving negligence is the essential, fundamental first step.
Attorney meetings by appointment only