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Can I Sue After a Car Accident?

Can I Sue After a Car Accident?

After a car accident caused by someone else injures you, you may wonder: Can I sue after a car accident?

The answer is yes. You can sue the at-fault party to seek compensation for your injuries and other losses. An experienced car accident lawyer can explain your legal rights and options.

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Get Medical Treatment Right Away

Getting medical treatment after a car accident

The first priority after any car accident is to get proper medical care, even if your injuries seem minor at first. Some serious conditions like concussions, whiplash, and internal bleeding may not show symptoms immediately.

Seeing a doctor right away will ensure your injuries are diagnosed and treated. This also documents the link between the accident and your injuries, which you need if you decide to sue. Don't worry about medical bills at this stage - a car accident attorney can deal with these costs later.

Be Cautious When Talking to Insurance Companies

After an accident, the other driver's insurance company may contact you seeking information or even extending a quick settlement offer.

Insurers want to pay out as little as possible and may use tactics to get you to say something that undermines your case.

Politely decline to discuss details of the accident or your injuries. Direct them to speak with your car accident lawyer instead. Never accept a settlement without consulting an attorney first - initial offers are almost always lowball amounts.

Speak With a Car Accident Attorney

Scheduling a consultation with a skilled car accident lawyer should be one of your first steps. Most offer free case evaluations, so it costs nothing to get preliminary legal advice. An attorney can assess the strength of your case, explain the claims process, estimate the potential value of your case, and lay out your options.

Look for a lawyer who focuses on car accident cases and has a track record of success. You must feel comfortable with your attorney, so consider meeting with a few before deciding who to hire.

Your Lawyer Will Investigate the Accident

To build a strong case, your attorney will thoroughly investigate the accident.

This involves:

  • Obtaining the police accident report
  • Interviewing eyewitnesses
  • Examining photos and videos from the accident scene
  • Consulting accident reconstruction experts if needed
  • Gathering your medical records and bills
  • Analyzing your employment and income records

This process helps your lawyer determine fault and the extent of your damages. In some cases, multiple parties may share liability, such as a negligent driver and the manufacturer of a defective auto part. Your attorney will identify all potential sources of compensation.

Proving Negligence is Key

Most car accident lawsuits are based on negligence. This means showing that the other driver failed to exercise reasonable care and that this caused the crash and your resulting injuries.

Examples of driver negligence include:

Your lawyer will gather evidence of the other driver's negligence to show they are liable for your damages. Proving negligence often requires analysis from expert witnesses like engineers and accident reconstruction specialists.

Damages You Can Recover

If your car accident claim succeeds, you may receive compensation for damages like:

Medical Bills, Both Current and Future

After a car accident, you may face a mountain of medical expenses. These can include costs for ambulance rides, emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medications, medical devices, and more. You may also need ongoing treatment like physical therapy, rehabilitation, or home health care.

Your lawyer will fight to get you compensation for all of your accident-related medical bills, both those you've already incurred and those you expect to have in the future.

Lost Wages from Missed Work

Accident injuries often force victims to miss work for days, weeks, or even months. This can be a huge financial blow on top of the physical pain you're already experiencing.

Whether you work full-time, part-time, are self-employed, or have an irregular income, your attorney can help you recover the money you would have earned if you hadn't been sidelined by the crash.

This includes wages, bonuses, commissions, self-employment income, and other forms of compensation you lost due to your injuries.

Reduced Future Earning Capacity for a Disability

In some tragic cases, car accident injuries leave victims with long-term or permanent disabilities that limit their ability to work. For example, a brain injury might affect your memory or concentration, or a back injury could prevent you from doing a physically demanding job.

If your earning capacity has been diminished due to the accident, you can seek damages for the income you would have been able to earn over your lifetime if you hadn't been disabled. Experts like vocational specialists, economists, and doctors may be consulted to estimate these losses.

Pain and Suffering

Not all car accident damages are easily quantifiable in dollars and cents. Crashes cause significant physical pain and discomfort that deserve to be compensated. Pain and suffering damages cover things like the actual pain from your injuries, uncomfortable medical treatments, sleep loss, and other hardships.

Putting a monetary value on pain and suffering is challenging, but generally, the more severe and long-lasting your injuries, the higher the potential amount. Your attorney will use their knowledge and experience to determine an appropriate figure in your case.

Emotional Distress

The trauma of a sudden car crash, painful injuries, and disruption to your normal life can take a serious mental and emotional toll. Many accident survivors struggle with issues like anxiety, depression, irritability, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological harm.

You can seek compensation for the mental anguish and emotional distress the accident has caused you. Your lawyer may use therapy bills, mental health records, or testimony from loved ones to support your claim for emotional distress damages.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Some accident injuries are so severe that they profoundly affect your ability to participate in activities you once loved. For instance, if you suffered a spinal cord injury that left you paralyzed, you might no longer play sports, dance, travel, or keep up with your kids the way you used to.

If your injuries have sidelined you from hobbies, social events, exercise, family activities, or other things that previously brought you joy and fulfillment, you can seek damages for this loss of enjoyment of life.

Property Damage, like Vehicle Repair or Replacement Costs

If your car was damaged or totaled in the crash, you can claim compensation for repair or replacement costs. This also covers damage to other personal property like cell phones, clothing, jewelry, or car seats.

You can recover the costs of fixing your property or the fair market value of the items if they were destroyed beyond repair.

Your lawyer will help you document your property losses and include them in your overall damage claim.

Out-of-Court Settlements vs. Going to Trial

The vast majority of car accident cases end in settlements, not courtroom verdicts. A settlement is an agreement between the injured person and the at-fault party (usually their insurer) to resolve the case for an agreed-upon amount.

Your lawyer will negotiate aggressively to reach a fair settlement that covers your losses.

Advantages of settling include:

  • Faster resolutions - Trials can take longer
  • Guaranteed compensation - Trials are uncertain
  • Maintaining privacy - Trials are public record

However, if the other side refuses to make a reasonable offer, you may need to go to court. Your attorney will advise you on the best path for your unique circumstances. The decision of whether to settle or sue is ultimately up to you.

Passenger Injury Claims

A passenger injured in a crash can file a claim against the insurance of the at-fault driver, even if that means suing the driver of the car they rode in.

If a friend or family member drove the car, however, you will seek compensation from their insurance, not them personally. An attorney can handle the process sensitively while protecting your interests.

Accidents With Uninsured or Underinsured Drivers

You have a couple of options if your injuries stem from an uninsured or underinsured driver who lacks enough coverage to fully compensate you:

  1. File a claim with your own insurance if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage: This insurance pays for your damages if the at-fault driver has no or inadequate insurance.
  2. Sue the driver directly: Unfortunately, many uninsured motorists have limited assets, so even if you win in court, you may never collect these damages. An attorney can advise you if this is worth pursuing.

Wrongful Death Claims

If you lost a loved one in a fatal car accident, you may pursue a wrongful death case.

While no amount of money can make up for such a profound loss, a wrongful death suit seeks compensation for:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills incurred before death
  • Loss of the deceased's income and benefits
  • Loss of care, guidance, and household services the deceased provided
  • Loss of love and companionship

Rules on who can file wrongful death claims and deadlines for doing so vary by state, so consult with a local attorney specializing in these sensitive cases.

Be Aware of the Time Limits for Filing a Lawsuit

Act now. Each state’s statute of limitations sets a strict deadline for filing personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. If you miss the deadline, the court will likely dismiss your case.

The time limits vary from state to state and depend on the type of claim and the identity of the defendant. Consulting an attorney as soon as possible will ensure you don't lose your right to sue.

What to Look for in a Car Accident Lawyer

Auto Accident Attorney

Having the right lawyer on your side can make all the difference in the outcome of your car accident case.

Key qualities to look for include:

  • Substantial experience handling car accident cases
  • Specific knowledge of your case type (passenger injuries, hit-and-run crashes, wrongful death claims, etc.)
  • A history of successful results through settlements and trials
  • Positive client reviews and testimonials
  • Personalized attention and responsive communication
  • Willingness to take cases to trial if needed
  • Transparent discussion of fees (most work on contingency, meaning they only get paid if you do)

Reputable attorneys should offer free initial consultations, so take advantage of these to find the right fit for you.

Red Flags to Avoid When Hiring a Lawyer

On the other hand, watch out for these warning signs when shopping for a car accident attorney:

  • Asking for fees up front (beyond a small retainer)
  • Making guarantees about the outcome of your case
  • Pressuring you to accept a quick settlement
  • Vague or unsatisfactory answers to your questions
  • Poor communication, like not returning calls promptly
  • Lack of experience or expertise in car accident cases
  • No track record of success
  • Negative reviews or disciplinary actions

Trust your instincts and keep looking if something doesn't feel right about an attorney. Finding the right advocate is worth taking your time.

The Benefits of Lawyering Up

You may feel overwhelmed and uncertain after a car crash, but one of the best things you can do is hire a skilled lawyer to protect your interests. An attorney takes the burden off your shoulders and fights to get you the compensation you need and deserve.

Other benefits of having legal representation include:

  • Extensive knowledge of relevant laws and procedures
  • Objectivity at a highly emotional time
  • Help with tricky insurance issues
  • Access to experts and resources to build your case
  • Motivated to maximize your financial recovery
  • Advisors on whether to settle or sue
  • Aggressive advocacy in settlement negotiations or at trial

While you may worry about the cost of hiring an attorney, most provide their services on a contingency fee basis. This means their payment comes out of any settlement or judgment you receive, so there are no upfront costs. You don't pay unless you recover compensation.

If you wondered, "Can I sue after a car accident?" consulting an attorney is the first step to learning the answer and getting the justice and recovery you deserve. Don't delay - the sooner you seek legal advice, the better. Contact a personal injury attorney today to discuss the details of your case and learn how they can help you move forward.

Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert - Owner & Attorney

Attorney Jennifer Gore-Cuthbert was seriously injured in a collision and experienced firsthand dealing with uncooperative insurance companies. She knows what it is like to feel overwhelmed and under-educated about your rights after a collision. That is why she has dedicated this firm to fighting for accident victims and their loved ones. The goal of The Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group – Gore LLC is to provide you with excellent legal advice, based on our experience in representing injured automobile drivers and passengers from all across the State of Georgia.

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