Not always. A lawsuit may not be necessary if there were no injuries and the other driver’s insurer agrees to pay for property damage repairs. Suing may be a good idea when your insurance claim is denied or you’re being offered a low settlement.
Like most drivers, you probably expect that insurance companies will pay out the settlement you’re owed after an accident. However, the reality is that insurance companies need to protect their bottom line, often at the expense of car accident victims.
If you find yourself battling with an uncooperative insurance company while trying to get your car crash expenses paid, you may be asking yourself whether suing after a car accident is worth it.
Car Accident lawyers work on contingency. This means that you don’t pay for their services unless they win your case. For this reason alone, hiring a lawyer to handle negotiations with insurance companies and protect your rights may be worth it.
Here are some important things you should know if you’re considering filing a car accident lawsuit.
Who Can I Sue After A Car Accident?
Who you should sue after a car accident depends on several factors, including:
- The state you live in
- The circumstances of the accident
- Whether the other driver has insurance
- The other driver’s insurance coverage
|The State You Live In
|Alabama, Washington D.C., Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia
||You must have absolutely no fault in the accident to recover damages.
|Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington
||Your compensation will be proportionate to your fault, i.e., if you’re found to be 30% at fault in a $10,000 accident, the other driver’s insurance may be required to pay $7,000 or 70% of the settlement.
|Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
||You may not seek compensation if you are 50% or more at fault. As long as you are 49% or less at fault, you may recover damages, but your recovery will also be reduced by the degree of responsibility you share in the accident
Disclaimer: Of course, these rules are just the general framework and are subject to all kinds of exceptions and qualifications. An attorney can provide you more information about the standard in your state.
Once the negligence model is applied to the circumstances of your accident, it must be determined whether the other driver’s insurance can cover damages and injuries.
If during negotiations with the other driver’s insurer, it is found that the value of your claim is more than the insurance coverage, you have the legal right to sue the at-fault driver.
Can I Sue If I wasn’t injured?
Yes, suing after a car accident without injury is considered a property damage claim. You would follow the same steps as a car accident claim in that you file a claim with the negligent party’s insurance company.
For your property damage claim to be successful, you must prove three things:
- The other driver’s action caused damage to your property
- The other driver breached their duty of care by driving negligently
- Running red lights, texting while driving, and driving under the influence are examples of a breach of duty
- You suffered financial losses
Can I be Sued After A car accident?
If you are the at-fault driver in a car accident and have insurance, the good news is that your insurance provider may compensate the other driver up to the policy limits. If you do not have insurance or your policy limits, do not cover the total amount of damages and medical costs, the driver may try to sue you personally.
How Much Should I Expect From A Car Accident Lawsuit?
The truth is there is no standard answer for how much compensation you can expect. In part, because of the reasons addressed earlier regarding insurance policy limits, every case is unique.
In addition to policy limits, the severity of your injuries may result in additional medical expenses and affect “pain and suffering” damages. All of these factors affect your claim and, ultimately, the settlement amount.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what is weighed when calculating a settlement:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost income
- Future lost income
- Estimated future medical expenses
- The multiplier for general damages
- Pain and suffering
Estimating these values and the calculation associated with them is just the beginning of determining a settlement value. Not to mention that what you calculate may differ from what an insurer calculates. For these reasons, it is essential to talk to an experienced accident attorney before agreeing to a settlement or putting forth your settlement demands.
Expertise aside, a study by the Insurance Resource Council found that car accident victims who hired an attorney were compensated up to three times more than those who did not have an accident attorney.
How Long After A Car Accident Can I File A Lawsuit?
How long you can sue after an accident depends on your state’s statute of limitations. Typically, the statute of limitations is the length of time from the date of the injury. However, if the injury is not identified immediately, you have 1 year from the date the injury was discovered.
|Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
||Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia
||Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin
||Florida, Nebraska, Utah, Wyoming
||Maine, Minnesota, North Dakota
Disclaimer: These deadlines are just a summary and are subject to many exceptions and changes. You should consult with an attorney as soon as possible to learn the actual deadline for your case.
Do I Need A Lawyer To File A Lawsuit After An Accident?
Trying to decide whether you have a valid car accident claim can be complex. You may wonder whether seeking the help of a car accident lawyer is necessary. Here are some things to consider.
- You were seriously injured, or a passenger was killed during the crash
- Your injuries are preventing you from working
- injuries are affecting your quality of life
- The insurance company is performing bad faith practices
- Your case is worth much more than what you’re being offered
A lawyer can help you determine the actual value of your case, whether the offers you’re receiving are fair, and the best course of action for recovering the compensation you deserve.
What To Expect From A lawsuit
The majority of car accident suits settle outside court. Insurance companies are notorious for pressuring accident victims to settle as soon as possible, as going to court is costly.
If it’s impossible to come to an agreement outside of court, here is what to expect during the trial:
- Filing your lawsuit – providing the court with a written complaint, accompanying paperwork, paying the filing fee, and serving the other party with papers.
- Discovery – both you and the other party will share documents, evidence, and other pertinent information with each other, while your attorney asks questions and requests information from the opposing lawyer.
- Deposition – statements were taken under oath made by witnesses, the investigating police officer, and experts consulting on your case that may later be presented at trial.
- Mediation and negotiations – mediation is an alternative form of dispute resolution handled outside of court. A mediator tried to help both parties find common ground and ultimately reach a settlement amount.
- Trial – if mediation fails, the case goes to trial.
- The jury will issue a verdict. This may take days or weeks, depending on the evidence, facts, and witness testimony presented by both sides.
- Court of appeals – if your attorney believes the court made a legal error during the trial, you may file an appeal. An appeal is a request for your case to be reviewed by a higher court.