Typical defenses

Defenses in car accident lawsuits

There are a variety of things that a defendant might say in response to a claim in a car accident lawsuit. The main general categories are:

  • The car accident was your fault (or at least partly your fault).
  • The car accident was someone else’s fault.
  • You were not really injured in the car accident.

The car accident was your fault

The most common defense in a car accident lawsuit is for the defendant to claim that you rather than he or she were the actual cause of the car accident. The legal terminology for this claim is that you were contributory or comparative negligence (meaning that your negligence contributed to the accident, or that your negligence should be compared to the defendant’s negligence).

There are many different ways that a defendant might claim that you were either partly or completely at fault. For example, the defendant might claim that you were speeding or violating some other traffic rule. The defendant might also admit that he or she was partly negligent, but claim that you could have done something to either avoid the accident (for example, swerve to the side) or reduce the injuries (for example, wear a seatbelt).

The car accident was someone else’s fault

As another form of comparative negligence, the defendant may say that someone else caused or contributed to the cause of the accident.

For example, the defendant may say that:

  • The road condition was unsafe and that the city or state should have had better traffic control or better guardrails or a different design for the road.
  • His or her vehicle was unsafe in some way so that the manufacturer was responsible.
  • A third driver did something that actually triggered the accident.

You were not injured in the car accident

The defendant may challenge your injury in various ways, such as:

  • You are exaggerating your injury, and were not really hurt that much.
  • You were already injured before the accident, possibly in some other accident or event, so that the injury was not caused by this accident.

Facts that defendants look for

Defenses frequently arise around certain types of facts in car accident lawsuits. The following are some of the types of things that are involved in many car accidents, and that tend to give defendants a basis for some sort of defense:

  • Sudden stop.
  • Stopping in a traffic-holding situation.
  • Mechanical defect or failure.
  • Sudden physical illness.
  • Unavoidable accident.
  • Sudden emergency.