Suing for a Car Accident: What To Know Before Taking Action

In 2021, the NHTSA reported 42,939 fatalities and more than 2.4 million injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents. The numbers signify a 10 percent increase from 2020. In addition, 43 states saw an increase in traffic-related fatalities.

One incident took place in Milwaukee, where a speeding vehicle struck another car, resulting in five fatalities. The Milwaukee police stated that four passengers died at the scene, while the fifth victim died from injuries. The 20-year-old driver sustained serious injuries.

Another car accident happened in Massachusetts, where an SUV crashed into an Apple store. As a result, 19 people sustained injuries, and one person died. The victims experienced head trauma and mangled limbs.

A devastating driving under the influence (DUI) crash also occurred in South Carolina, which injured a groom and killed a bride on their wedding night. The toxicology report showed the driver having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.261 percent, exceeding the legal limit by over three times.

Seek the legal services of an attorney if you have been involved in an accident. They can guide you in filing a case and demanding compensation for your losses. In addition, they can represent your interests during court proceedings.

Key Takeaways
  • Pursuing a car accident case involves filing a complaint, answering a counterclaim, participating in dispute resolutions, and potentially going to trial.
  • Find a lawyer who can give legal advice after an accident, calculate damages, investigate the accident, and negotiate with insurers.
  • You can prevent an auto collision by following traffic regulations, removing distractions, and driving only when sober.

Roles of a Car Accident Lawyer

Consulting with a car accident attorney is one of the crucial steps to take when dealing with a car accident case. Their duties include giving legal advice, calculating potential damages, investigating the accident, and communicating with insurance companies.

Provide legal advice

An attorney can offer advice on available legal options for actions after an auto accident. They may advise you to pursue an out-of-court settlement or initiate a lawsuit. Moreover, filing a car accident lawsuit and agreeing to a settlement involves different procedures. A lawyer can guide you through these processes, offering valuable assistance and support. 

They can also evaluate your eligibility for compensation based on applicable laws like the negligence doctrine. The elements of negligence concerning car accident cases include the following:

  • The defendant’s legal duty to the plaintiff;
  • The violation of such a duty;
  • The plaintiff suffered injuries; and
  • The causation between the breach and injuries.

For example, suppose the incident resulted from distracted driving. In this case, the first element refers to the duty of every motorist to operate a vehicle safely and responsibly. This responsibility includes keeping their attention on the road. But the negligent driver violated this legal obligation, satisfying the second element. 

As a result, another car’s passenger suffered brain injuries, which satisfies the third element. Lastly, medical records show the causation between the distracted driving incident and the injury, satisfying the last element. In this case, the passenger can institute a claim against the negligent motorist. 

A lawyer also ensures that you follow the statute of limitations

States impose varying time limits for the filing of actions, which ranges from one to six years. Adhering to this timeframe is important because the courts will no longer entertain your claim if it’s filed beyond the prescribed period.

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Calculate possible damages

Car crash victims can receive the following damages:

  • Medical expenses
  • Repair costs
  • Mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering
  • Physical disfigurement

After a road collision, you must get immediate medical treatment. However, going to the hospital entails medical bills, which can be financially burdensome for most people. 

A government organization found that in 2021, 35 million people faced problems paying medical bills. Although this number decreased from 45.5 million in 2019, statistics still show millions cannot afford healthcare.

An accident can also cause damage to your vehicle, necessitating repairs. The American Automobile Association reported that standard repair costs could reach $600, with simple repairs like brake fixes costing around $500. In extreme cases involving engine damage, costs can escalate up to $10,000.

Beyond the monetary losses, victims can also get compensation for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and physical disfigurement. For example, you might experience depression or anxiety due to the accident. As a result, you cannot participate in activities you once enjoyed, affecting your quality of life.

In computing non-economic losses, your attorney may use the multiplier method. However, note that it may be different from the calculation of the court or insurance adjuster. Using the method only helps set your expectations regarding the possible non-economic damages.

Using the multiplier method, the court or adjuster will multiply your monetary losses by a number ranging from 1.5 to 5. The number depends on the following factors:

  • Type of treatment you received
  • Presence of permanent side effects
  • Obviousness of the other party’s fault

Investigate the accident

A lawyer will help you gather material evidence and present them to work in your favor. A car accident claim usually requires the following evidence:

  • Photos and videos
  • Witness testimony
  • Police report
  • Medical records

Photographs can provide visual documentation of the accident scene, the victim’s injuries, and the extent of vehicular damage. Moreover, video footage can reveal crucial details about the happenings that led up to, during, and after the incident. For example, surveillance videos could show that the negligent motorist used their phone while driving an SUV.

A lawyer can also interview possible witnesses and asks for their phone numbers and addresses. Should you take the case to court, these witnesses can help with your car insurance claim or lawsuit. They will swear under oath regarding the conduct of both drivers and details of the incident.

A police report helps determine fault in an accident. But it’s possible to disagree with the police’s findings. For example, if they stated the incorrect place or time of the incident, your attorney can send evidence showing the correct details. But if you disagree with their opinions regarding liability, it may be challenging to convince them to change the report.

In addition, an attorney can hire an accident reconstruction expert to analyze the factors that led to the collision. Accident reconstructionists may develop 3D models or submit reports to present how the collision happened. 

Negotiate with the insurance company

The process of filing and receiving insurance claims depends on the state where you live. In the US, there are at-fault and no-fault states. In at-fault states, the liable driver’s insurance company pays for the injured party’s financial losses. Consequently, in a fault state, your lawyer must negotiate with the other driver’s insurer to secure a fair settlement.

But in no-fault states, your insurance company pays for your medical bills and other expenses. The extent of your claim depends on your insurance policy. Moreover, your attorney will negotiate with your insurer. No-fault auto insurance also provides restrictions on lawsuits. For instance, in Kentucky, you can only file a suit if your claim exceeds $1,000.

Sending the demand letter to the insurer starts the negotiation process. The letter includes the following details:

  • Parties involved
  • Purpose of letter
  • Damages incurred
  • Details about the incident

Your personal injury attorney must have an understanding of the amount you are seeking to demand. The letter must have a serious and straightforward tone, conveying your intention to take legal action should the demand not be satisfied.

Suing After a Car Crash

Pursuing a car accident case involves several steps. These steps include filing a complaint, answering any counterclaims, participating in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and potentially going to trial.

File a civil complaint

The filing of a complaint and payment of filing fees start the civil action. Your attorney must include the following information in the civil complaint:

First, the court where you intend to file an action must have the power to try the case. Second, the cause of action outlines the circumstances that give rise to your claim. For example, the attorney should mention that the other driver has a BAC of 0.10 percent, which is beyond the legal limit. Due to the intoxication, the motorist hit your car and caused injuries. 

Third, the remedies sought may be in the form of damages. The lawyer must attach hospital, pharmacy, or repair shop receipts. In case of non-economic damages, the attorney can include personal journal entries and mental health records showing your emotional struggles.

Additionally, a lawyer will help you determine the appropriate parties to sue, which can include the following:

  • Other drivers
  • Auto manufacturer
  • Bar owners

You could sue the driver if they acted negligently. For example, they might have violated DUI or distracted driving laws. Aside from the at-fault driver, you can also file a case against the car manufacturer if they produced defective items which caused injuries.

Other car accident victims also sue bar owners. For example, the husband who lost his wife to a DUI crash in South Carolina filed a case against El Gallo Bar & Grill, Snapper Jacks, the Drop In Bar & Dali, and the Crab Shack. He alleged that they gave a large amount of alcohol to a visibly intoxicated woman. As a result, he lost his wife on their wedding day.

Answer a counterclaim

In some cases, the counterclaim against the plaintiff can include allegations of the plaintiff’s contributory or comparative negligence. Contributory negligence prevents plaintiffs from receiving damages if they also acted negligently. Hence, plaintiffs find it more difficult to recover financial losses in states that follow the contributory negligence doctrine.

For example, A files a personal injury lawsuit against B. After the trial, the jury found that A was 10 percent negligent, while B was 90 percent liable for the car accident. Under the contributory negligence doctrine, A will not get any amount from B.

On the contrary, comparative negligence reduces the award that plaintiffs may receive according to the parties’ degree of negligence. Under the comparative negligence doctrine, the injured party may find it easier to recover losses.

For instance, C institutes a claim against D. The court attributed five percent liability to C and 95 percent liability to D. In this example, C can receive 95 percent of the recovery amount. Although the court found the plaintiff to be five percent responsible for the incident, they can still get compensation.

Enter an alternative dispute resolution

An ADR allows parties to resolve the case without litigation. It resolves personal injury claims quickly, with settlements often only taking up to six weeks to resolve.

Mediation and arbitration are types of ADR commonly used in car accident settlements. In mediation, the mediator guides the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable solution. The mediator does not decide the case. Instead, settlement offers come from one of the parties, which the other party may accept or reject.

In contrast, arbitration involves an arbitrator who hears the parties’ arguments and evaluates their evidence. The arbitrator then renders a decision on the case. You may enter into a binding arbitration where you must accept the arbitrator’s decision. Otherwise, you may choose a non-binding arbitration, so you can have freedom on the case’s outcome.

If the parties agree, the attorney will file a settlement agreement with the court. This legal document releases the at-fault party from further liability. Hence, you must ensure that the agreement is in your best interests before finalizing it.

Proceed to trial

The parties may go to trial if they do not reach a settlement. The stages in a court trial include the following:

  • Opening statements
  • Testimonies
  • Redirection
  • Closing statements
  • Verdict and judgment

The plaintiff’s attorney and the defense lawyer will give opening statements, describing the facts of the case from their perspectives. Next, the plaintiff will present their testimony, followed by the defense’s presentation of witnesses. The lawyers may also redirect the witness, which involves additional questioning.

The lawyers will give their closing statements after the court or jury listens to the witnesses’ statements and evaluates the evidence. It is the last chance for the counsel to persuade the court or jury. 

After deliberations, the jury submits their findings to the court. The deliberations may take several days, depending on the case’s complexity. Lastly, the court gives the final judgment.

Did you know?

In 2019, 328 million people in the US spent approximately $1,035 each for motor vehicle accidents, totaling $340 billion. The amount includes medical expenses, property damage costs, and workplace losses.

Hire an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

Suing for a car accident entails several processes. Hence, it’s best to contact a personal injury lawyer before taking legal action. A car accident lawsuit requires filing a civil complaint, answering a counterclaim, negotiating with the other party, and presenting arguments in court. The process can be lengthy, complex, and difficult to handle without legal knowledge. 

The Personal Injury Center can match you with a lawyer specializing in personal injury cases. An attorney can help you decide what actions to take after an accident. Lawyers can provide valuable guidance and assist you in making an informed decision. Avail of our free consultation and tell us about your case today! 

Suing for a car accident can be a complicated process. The Personal Injury Center can find you a lawyer who can assist you through the claims process.

FAQs on Suing for a Car Accident

If you enter a contingency fee agreement, the car accident attorney may get 20 to 50 percent of the award or settlement money.

Motor vehicle accidents can increase your insurance premiums since the insurer considers your driving history in determining your rates. But you may apply for their accident forgiveness programs depending on the accident's circumstances.

You can be reimbursed through your uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage. However, it may not cover all your financial losses.