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Understanding Auto Accident Laws: A Driver's Guide

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Know what laws will come into play.

If you find yourself in an auto accident, whether by your fault or by someone else's recklessness or negligence, it is important to know what auto accident laws will come into play.

By The Editors

Wed, May 1, 2024 09:58 PM PST

This article is NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Please consult with an attorney for ALL legal matters.

Photo credit Aaron Doucett.

With our guide, you will receive the basic legal knowledge necessary to navigate through such situations before you involve an expert.

Important Aspects of Auto Accident Laws

While intricacies exist in laws based on the State, all victims must prove these four things to be eligible for compensation: duty, causation, breach, and harm.


When referring to duty, the law states that all drivers have a legal responsibility to follow all traffic rules and drive their vehicles sensibly to ensure maximum safety and prevent harm to others. This includes driving within the speed limits, maintaining control, keeping your car well-maintained, exercising awareness, following traffic signals, using blinkers and headlights, etc.


If a duty has been breached, the plaintiff will have to provide evidence. Proof of breach of duty can be shown in multiple ways, including eyewitness testimonies, traffic data, video evidence, pictures, or direct admission of fault by the defendant. In more complex cases, circumstantial evidence may also need to be considered such as skid marks, vehicle damage, blood readings, overall destruction caused, etc.


Despite each driver having the responsibility to drive dutifully, just breaching that duty is not enough for the court to determine that the plaintiff’s accident was caused due to it. To link the breach of duty, the plaintiff must show medical reports or other proof that prove that the injuries or other damage happened as a result of the accident and did not exist prior to it.


The seriousness of the harm caused also plays a role in strengthening your claim. Minor scratches or near-miss accidents are not enough to warrant a negligence lawsuit. Proving that harm was caused due to the defendant’s conduct will make your case stronger and entitle you to compensation for any distress, medical bills, property damage, lost wages, or other problems caused by the accident.

State-Specific Auto Accident Laws

While the general procedure of making a claim and the aspects involved in the process are similar in every state, there are some things that differ from state to state that should be considered:

Statute of Limitations

Each state has a time period for when you can file your claim. A statute of limitations is a kind of legal deadline within which a person may report their case. After this period, a court will consider your claim as untimely. This helps with an earlier resolution of disputes when the evidence and memories of witnesses are still clear. If no statute of limitations existed, courts would be dealing with cases from years ago that no longer have reliable evidence.

At-Fault vs. No-Fault

Depending on your state and insurance type, you may be eligible for different levels of compensation. In an At-Fault state, the one responsible for the accident covers the medical bills and property damage of the other. Meanwhile, in a No-Fault state, the people involved in the accident are covered for damages by their respective insurance companies no matter whose actions caused the accident.

Insurance Coverage

Each state also has minimum coverage amounts for liability insurance. In fact, almost every state legally requires you to have the minimum insurance coverage for your vehicle. For example, in Oregon drivers must carry a 25/50/20 liability insurance plan. This means $25,000 per injured per accident, $50,000 per accident, and $20,000 for property damage.

What to do if You're Involved in an Auto Accident

Being involved in a car accident can be distressing but knowing what to do if you find yourself in such a situation is important.

Assess the Damage

First you must remain calm and not make any claims out loud. Instead, process the situation if you're in the mental state to do so, and assess the damage around you and on you.

Gather Evidence

Once you've gathered your bearings, it's time to collect evidence to prove the other driver was reckless. Take pictures, record videos, check the site thoroughly, talk to eyewitnesses, and try to get their contact info.

Contact a Lawyer

In a situation like this, a lawyer specializing in auto accidents will help you navigate the case and build a strong claim. The sooner you act, the better. That’s important if the accident occurred in Tennessee, as the State only has a 1-year deadline for filing a lawsuit. A car accident attorney can provide expert advice to help you get compensated.


Getting involved in a car accident can be a highly distressing situation, physically, mentally, and financially. Understanding auto accident laws will help with the claims process and strengthen your case, especially in situations where you're the victim.

This article is NOT LEGAL advice. Please consult with an attorney for ALL legal matters.

This article was compiled by the editors of LACar.

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