Car Accident Terms You should Know

Spencer Law Group Jan. 15, 2019

Protecting yourself in a car accident situation relies on remaining informed about the process. Once you have safely left the scene of a car accident, the real work begins—seeking insurance benefits from your insurer (or the other driver’s insurer), and perhaps seeking compensation from an at-fault party. Spencer Law Group is experienced in handling these sorts of situations.


A tort is a civil law term that describes when someone wrongs someone else, resulting in injury, damages, or harm of any kind. Torts can be brought to court for physical, psychological, economic, or even social damages. Torts make the person at-fault responsible for repaying the wronged party for the damage they’ve caused—including the costs of pursuing a lawsuit.


When a person is sued for wronging another (i.e. a tort), the at-fault party does not need intent in order to be sued. In other words, a tort can be brought for accidental damages. When harm is caused as a result of carelessness, this is known as negligence.

In tort law, every person has a responsibility to exercise “reasonable care” when driving, which could potentially harm another. Failure to exercise care is what the law calls negligence. Negligence can be committed actively (bad drivers) and passively (poor maintenance).

No-Fault / Fault

Kentucky is a “choice no-fault” state, which means that vehicle owners can “opt out” of the no-fault car insurance system and choose to sue (and potentially be sued) after a car accident.

Emergency Medical Condition

For legal and insurance purposes, an emergency medical condition is a condition with painful and severe effects that would result in serious harm to a patient if left untreated. Insurance companies will usually only cover large medical costs if associated with EMCs.

EMCs can only be classified by certain medical professionals, so if you are seeking treatment, make sure your doctor classifies your condition clearly. This way, you can ensure that your medical costs will be covered.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is a legal term that describes a party’s requirement to provide the evidence for their claim. In tort law, the burden of proof is on the injured party to prove that their damages are a result of the defendant’s actions. In negligence claim, plaintiffs bear the burden of proof, meaning that success depends on their provision of sufficient evidence.

Plaintiffs must prove that:

  • The at-fault party was negligent;

  • The plaintiff suffered injury; and

  • The injury was directly caused by the defendant’s negligence


Liability is the legal term for being financially or legally responsible for anything. In tort judgments, when a person is found negligent and responsible for a person’s injury, they will be held liable to repay those damages in the amount the jury or judge decrees. Part of a car accident injury case is arguing how much a person is liable to repay or compensate for.

Total Loss

When the cost of repairing or restoring an asset exceeds its insurance policy (or its market value), the insurer will declare it to be a total loss. However, many drivers misunderstand what this means. Even if a car is fully functional, the insurance company may declare it to be a total loss because it is not in marketable condition. Older vehicles are likely to be total losses in car accidents as a result.