The 17th century British political philosopher Thomas Hobbes is famous for considering what life would be like if there were no civil rules governing how people treat one another. He concludes that the natural state would be a war of all people against everyone else. The result would be a complete collapse of civilization: “No arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
The rule of law exists to ensure something like this never happens. A keystone principle of Western law is that people must refrain from harming each other, either casually or out of spite. We call it negligence when someone fails to guard against harming others this way.
The duty of care
What—if anything—does one person owe to a stranger? The answer we have come up with as an organizing principle of our society is this: people owe a duty to take care their actions don’t hurt other people. Negligence consists of failure to use the degree of care that a reasonably careful person would use in similar circumstances.
The essence of a personal injury lawsuit in North Carolina—or anywhere else in the United States—is the claim by the injured person (the plaintiff) that another person (the defendant) failed to fulfill his duty of care and therefore should be held accountable for any injuries that occurred. If the court finds this claim to be true, then the defendant must compensate the plaintiff for those injuries.
The standard of care is relative to the level of danger basic to the activity. When strangers would be exceptionally vulnerable to harm, or when people might be exposed to more severe injuries, you will be required to be even more cautious than usual. For instance, driving a motor vehicle is considered an inherently dangerous activity both because pedestrians are highly vulnerable to injury and because North Carolina traffic accidents can inflict terrible harm. A driver is held to a higher obligation—to act as a very careful person would—or risk being found negligent.
Negligence in North Carolina motor vehicle crashes
If you have been injured in a traffic accident in North Carolina, you can expect that insurance claims adjusters and their attorneys will raise the issue of negligence as a way to reduce the settlement you might receive. They can argue that you accepted the risks of traffic accidents and gave up your right to demand that others act with special care on the road. Their position will be strengthened if they can point to how your behavior seems to show you don’t care that much about personal safety. Some ways your behavior can weaken your case include:
- If you failed to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.
- If you did not use your seat belt or harness while driving a car.
- If you did not seek medical care after your accident, or if you failed to follow the doctor’s advice.
Getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries can be difficult even when it’s obvious you have been hurt by another driver’s negligence. The assistance of an experienced Wilmington auto accident lawyer is likely to be essential to getting the maximum recovery possible.
Call Speaks Law Firm today at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233 to arrange for a free case consultation about your traffic accident lawsuit. When you call, we will send you a FREE copy of our book, The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, which will be yours to keep as an introduction to our legal team.