You can sue after a car accident. Yet, your case may not require litigation to reach a fair conclusion. Many car accident claims settle through insurance negotiations. A car accident lawyer may suggest filing a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement. When that happens, they can manage everything a civil lawsuit entails, from its initial filing to its closing arguments.
What to Know About Suing After a Car Accident
While you consider your legal options, here are some things to know:
You Must File Your Lawsuit Within a Certain Period
You have a deadline to sue the responsible party after a car accident. Once the statute of limitations runs out, you forfeit your legal right to sue, no matter how strong your case is. How much time you have depends on whether the negligent party is an individual, business, or municipality. You generally have longer to sue an individual than you do a government agency.
Your filing deadline for a personal injury lawsuit begins from the date of the accident. Matters change for wrongful death lawsuits. There, your filing deadline begins from the date of your loved one’s passing.
You Can Sue the At-Fault Party After a Car Accident
You can sue the negligent party after a car accident, and that party can be an individual, a business, or a municipality.
Here’s what to know:
- You can sue an individual if the driver who caused your accident drove their personal vehicle at the time. If the negligent driver operated a business vehicle for personal reasons unrelated to work at the time of the accident, you can still sue the individual.
- You can sue a teen driver’s parents if the driver who caused your accident was a teenager at the time. Many states note that parents bear liability for negligent acts committed by their children.
- You can sue a business if the driver who caused your accident drover a business vehicle for work-related reasons at the time.
- You can sue a municipality such as a town, city, county, or state if the driver who caused your accident was a municipal employee, such as a city bus driver or police officer, who was driving for work at the time. You can also sue a municipality if poor road maintenance or design caused your accident.
Car accident cases can get complicated—sometimes featuring multiple involved parties. When this happens, you could partner with an attorney. Then, they could hold multiple parties accountable for your losses, giving you more than one option to seek financial recovery.
Measures That Could Support Your Car Accident Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit after a car accident does not guarantee compensation. There are certain measures you must take to protect your right to litigation. Some of these measures include:
Promptly Considering Legal Action
As noted, you have a limited time to file a lawsuit following a collision. By promptly reviewing your legal options with an attorney, you can prevent the statute of limitations from expiring on your case. This, in turn, protects your right to damages.
Being Mindful of What You Share
Anything you share with the liable insurance company, other party’s lawyers, or even witnesses can hurt your case. That’s why it’s important to consider having a lawyer represent you. They can manage all communications, so you don’t accidentally disclose something that could hurt your case’s outcome.
Referring All Settlement Offers to Your Lawyer
Once you accept compensation from the liable insurer, that’s it; your case ends. You cannot file a second claim or request more money later. An attorney can evaluate any settlement offers and advise you on whether to accept one. Their calculations account for your past, present, and future injury-related hardships.
Getting Medical Care and Following Your Treatment Plan
Your injuries are a crucial part of your car accident lawsuit. Seeking medical care (and following your doctor’s orders) establish that the collision caused your condition. A lawyer can use your medical records, doctors’ testimony, and other relevant information to assert your right to damages.
Possible Outcomes of a Car Accident Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit doesn’t mean the case will go all the way to a verdict.
Once you initiate litigation:
- The insurance company may offer a settlement. Most insurance companies don’t want claims to evolve into lawsuits. Once it learns of your legal intentions, the liable insurer in your case may offer just compensation. In this instance, you could drop the lawsuit and accept those funds.
- The insurance company opens up negotiations. A once-hesitant insurance company may open the floor for negotiations after learning about your lawsuit.
- You could go to mediation. Mediation is not a lawsuit. Instead, it’s where a neutral third party helps you and the at-fault party reach an amicable financial agreement.
- A judge and/or jury awards compensation. If your case goes all the way to a verdict, a judge and/or jury may decide to award compensation. They determine how much you need based on your needs.
How Long Does a Lawsuit Take?
Although the court system has guidelines in place for moving lawsuits forward, these cases do not come with specific timelines. It could take months or years for your lawsuit to reach a conclusion. It all depends on the involved parties’ cooperation, the availability of evidence, and other factors.
Sometimes, defense attorneys attempt to delay legal proceedings, hoping to discourage the other party from filing a case. Having a lawyer in your corner could prevent this from happening. They can recognize any unethical practices and fight against them.
You Can Seek Money From the Liable Insurance Provider
A lawsuit is not your only option for seeking damages after a car accident. You can also seek damages from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. Many states require motorists to carry liability insurance.
For instance, if you live in Georgia, you’re required to carry:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per incident for bodily injury
- $25,000 per incident for property damage
Although all drivers are supposed to have insurance, not all drivers do. If an uninsured driver caused your accident, you could seek compensation from your own uninsured motorist coverage if you have it.
You can also seek compensation from your insurance if you purchased comprehensive coverage, which covers damage to your car, no matter who was responsible for your accident.
An Insurance Claim May Not Provide Sufficient Funds to Pay for Your Losses
Unfortunately, serious injuries often lead to enormous medical bills. While $25,000 is a lot of money, it is not enough to cover the extensive medical treatment some people need after a car accident.
For example, people with spinal injuries or traumatic brain injuries may need daily assistance for the rest of their lives. If your medical bills exceed the at-fault party’s policy’s limits, you can directly sue them for your full losses. There, you could ask for funds that go further than what’s offered by a standard auto insurance policy.
An Insurance Claim or Lawsuit Could Account for These Injury-Related Losses
If you or a family member sustained injuries and property damage in a car accident, you may be entitled to two types of damages: economic and non-economic. Here is more information about the damages potentially available to you:
Economic Damages Account for Your Financial losses
Economic damages are the tangible expenses you incurred because of the car accident.
They may include:
- Medical care for your emergency treatment, follow-up care, and other necessary healthcare expenses
- Future or ongoing medical care if your doctors anticipate that you will require future procedures or if you need ongoing care because of your injuries
- Medical equipment, including braces, crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, motorized scooters, transfer benches, shower chairs, hospital beds, and more
- Property damage for the repairs or replacement of your vehicle
- Loss of income, including salary, wages, or tips if you are temporarily unable to work because of your injuries
- Loss of future income if you cannot return to your previous occupation because of your injuries or if you cannot return to work at all
These are just some financial losses you could seek after a collision.
Non-Economic Damages After a Car Accident
Non-economic damages are the intangible losses you experienced because of the accident. Examples include pain and suffering, scarring, disfigurement, and disability.
You can seek non-economic damages if:
- The accident left you permanently disabled or disfigured.
- You endured an especially painful or long recovery.
- You suffer from chronic pain.
- You lost a limb or other body part.
- You developed a mental health condition, such as insomnia, anxiety, or depression.
- You lost the ability to participate in hobbies or activities you used to enjoy.
- You have a hard time getting out of the house and socializing.
- The accident reduced your overall quality of life.
Although these losses are intangible, they have dollar values. How much you can request for these expenses largely depends on your situation.
Wrongful Death Damages After a Car Accident
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, you may be entitled to damages for wrongful death.
Compensable losses in a wrongful death claim include:
- Pain and suffering
- Final healthcare costs
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Property damage costs
- The decedent’s lost income
Your recoverable damages are unique to your situation. Thus, you may recover additional losses to those listed above.
How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help Me After a Car Accident?
Car accident cases are complex. If you have never gone through the process of seeking damages through an insurance settlement or by suing the at-fault party, you may not know where to start. If you seek damages on your own, you risk making a mistake, missing important deadlines, or accepting less compensation than you deserve.
A lawyer can take over the complicated insurance and legal tasks that come with a car accident case so that you can rest and recover. A personal injury attorney can:
Investigate Your Car Accident
A lawyer can gather information about what caused your accident and who was at fault. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the better, because a lot of the evidence connected to your case is time-sensitive and will not be around forever.
A lawyer may gather the following information to support your case:
- The accident report
- Black box data
- Security camera footage
- Cell phone records
- Toxicology reports
- Eyewitness testimony
- Photos and videos of the accident scene
- Physical evidence at the accident scene
- Data from an accident reconstruction specialist
Using evidence, a lawyer can assert your right to damages, whether you file an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit.
Estimate Your Damages
You need a firm estimate of your damages so that you can effectively seek compensation and evaluate settlement offers. It is easy for an insurance company to shortchange your losses if you don’t know what you need. A lawyer can use your medical bills and records, vehicle repair or replacement receipts, tax documents, expert medical testimony, and other information to assert the value of your losses.
Help With Insurance Matters
Communicating with insurance companies can be exhausting and frustrating. You may not understand their technical terms—and you may not have the time to negotiate a fair offer.
A lawyer can communicate with the insurance company for you, file a claim on your behalf, and pursue the damages you need. They can also address any bad faith insurance practices that derail your claim.
Negotiate an Insurance Settlement
If the insurance company doesn’t readily offer a fair settlement, a lawyer may negotiate for a higher figure. As noted, this involves gathering evidence, proving liability, and managing all insurance-related communications.
Sue the Responsible Party
If you and the responsible party’s insurance provider cannot agree on a reasonable settlement, you can sue the at-fault party, whether it is an individual, a business, or a municipality. A lawyer can file the lawsuit on your behalf and represent you in court.
There is no need to go through the legal process alone. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a collision, a car accident lawyer can evaluate whether a lawsuit could recover compensation. If so, they can manage everything litigation entails.