An Overview on Motor Vehicle Accident Law

Types of cases that can result from a car accident

Car accidents are so common they’re almost a fact of life; if you haven’t been involved in an accident yourself, you almost certainly know someone who has been.

After a car accident, you might be wondering what your legal recourse is. Or, if you have been sued or charged in connection to an accident, you might be worried about navigating the legal system. The following information will give you a brief overview of some types of cases that can result from a car accident.


The legal consequences on car accidents depends on the severity of the accident and whether there were any aggravating factors that made the accident worse. You might find that your car accident results in both civil and criminal proceedings.


The most common civil proceedings that arise from a car accident are personal injury or property damage suits. If you are being sued for a car accident, your insurance provider will likely be part of the lawsuit, and will usually provide a lawyer to defend you against the other party’s claims. If you would like to sue someone for your injuries or property damage, you may want to consider hiring your own attorney, especially since the person you are suing will likely have one provided by their insurance.

Personal injury

Car accidents are the most common cause for personal injury cases, and these cases are litigated under the legal theory of negligence. In a negligence case, you will need to show that the other driver owed you a duty, breached that duty by causing damages, and that your damages are a direct result of the other driver’s breach. It may be helpful to talk with a doctor to determine whether your injuries were a result of the car accident. For more information about personal injury cases, you can follow this link.

Property damage

Car accidents usually result in at least some property damage. It’s probably a given that you can recover the cost of repairing your car, but if other property was damaged in the accident, you can make a claim for those, too. This includes, potentially, your phone, your glasses and any car seats in your vehicle, which you should replace after any accident for the safety of your children.   



Occasionally, after an accident, a police officer will issue a citation to the driver deemed to be at fault for the accident. Officers generally issue the citation when there is clear evidence as to how the accident happened, and the citations are often for moving violations like speeding or following too closely. While these are criminal charges, they are usually on the lower end of the criminal spectrum. Nevertheless, you might find it helpful to speak with a lawyer about your next steps.


The officer at the scene might perform field sobriety tests to determine whether any drivers were intoxicated. If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, you will likely be charged with a DUI or DWI. The severity of this charge will vary by state and whether anyone was injured due to the accident. For more information about how officers test for intoxication and how these cases proceed through the criminal justice system, you can follow this link.

Vehicular manslaughter/homicide

The most tragic car accidents result in death. In these situations, a driver can be charged with vehicular homicide or manslaughter, a type of unintentional killing. A driver won’t necessarily be charged with vehicular homicide every time someone dies in a car accident, as it is only appropriate when the driver is driving in an illegal way. Common examples of illegal driving that results in a vehicular manslaughter charge include negligent or reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, drowsy driving or distracted driving. States have also passed statutes limiting what you can do while operating a vehicle, and violating those rules can also result in this kind of charge. You can follow this link to learn more about how these kinds of charges are handled in the courts.

Common Questions

Below are some common questions you might want to consider when meeting with an attorney for the first time.

  1. How do I prove the other driver caused my injuries?
  2. Can a car accident lead to criminal charges?
  3. Can I sue the other driver even if they have been criminally charged?
  4. What do I do if the officer said I was at fault but I don’t think I was?
  5. What do I do if I was involved in an accident and I don’t have insurance?

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Needs

It is important to approach the right type of attorney—someone who can help you through your entire case. To do so, you can visit the Super Lawyers directory, and use the search box to find a lawyer based on your legal issue or location.

To help you get started, you may want to consider looking for a lawyer who specializes in motor vehicle accidents. If you are facing criminal charges after an accident, you might also want to consider looking for a criminal defense lawyer.

Why Should I Talk to a Lawyer?

Civil defendants often have lawyers through their insurance policies, so if you are initiating a civil lawsuit after a car accident, you will want to consider speaking with a lawyer to even the playing field. If you are defending criminal charges after a car accident, your lawyer can protect your rights by representing you in trial or negotiating a plea agreement. In either case, a lawyer can assist you in interviewing witness and collecting necessary medical and financial reports.

A lawyer will further be able to anticipate potential problems with your case and advise you on how to approach them. They can also keep track of deadlines and file all the paperwork with the necessary courts and agencies, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Why Super Lawyers?

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. As Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting a lawyer, we limit the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public. You can learn more about the selection process here.

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