Can I Sue After a Car Accident?
Car accidents, unfortunately, bring much unexpected strife, pain, and hassle into the lives of injured victims. If you recently suffered injuries in a crash, you might wonder if you can sue or what your recourse might be.
The good news is you have many legal rights and options, depending upon the laws of the state where the accident happened and the details of your accident. The best step you can take for yourself is to hire an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
They can manage your claim for you, and if it comes to the point of needing to file a lawsuit, they will represent you in court and handle all the details, requirements, and deadlines.
Determining Liability in a Car Accident
Establishing liability in the aftermath of a car accident is crucial to seeking compensation for damages. Liability refers to the legal responsibility for the accident and the resulting harm, and it can involve various parties depending on the circumstances of the collision.
Identifying liable parties often requires a thorough investigation and legal skills.
Here are some common parties that may bear liability in your car accident:
- Other Drivers: The primary and most apparent potentially liable party is another driver involved in the accident. If their negligent actions, such as distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, or violating traffic laws, led to the collision, they can be held responsible.
- Vehicle Owners: If the at-fault driver operated a vehicle owned by someone else, the vehicle owner may share liability. This might be the case if the owner negligently entrusted the vehicle to an unfit driver or failed to maintain the vehicle properly, resulting in mechanical failures.
- Employers: Employers may be liable if the at-fault driver acted within the scope of their employment at the time of the accident. This concept, known as “vicarious liability,” is often applicable in commercial vehicle accidents involving employees driving company vehicles.
- Government Entities: Government entities can be liable for accidents caused by hazardous road conditions, such as poorly maintained roads, inadequate signage, or unsafe construction zones. However, pursuing a claim against a government entity may involve specific procedures and shorter deadlines.
- Manufacturers and Suppliers: Vehicle defects, such as faulty brakes or defective tires, can contribute to accidents. In such cases, the manufacturer, distributor, or supplier may be liable under product liability laws if the defect played a role in the collision.
- Contractors and Construction Companies: Accidents in construction zones may result in liability for contractors or construction companies. This can be due to negligence in adhering to safety regulations or providing insufficient warning signs and barriers.
- Third-Party Service Providers: Liability may extend to third parties responsible for maintaining or repairing the vehicles involved in the accident. For example, you can hold a mechanic performing negligent repairs liable for an accident.
Determining liability involves a comprehensive investigation, evidence examination, and analysis of applicable laws. Consulting a car accident attorney is essential for assessing the specifics of your case and identifying potentially liable parties.
You can’t pursue compensation for your damages through an insurance claim or a lawsuit unless you know who to hold liable for your damages. If you don’t hold the right person or party liable, your claim or lawsuit won’t prove successful.
Should You File a Lawsuit?
In reality, you can file a lawsuit against anyone at any time for anything.
The question is—will it stand a chance of succeeding? Have you gone through the proper process or steps to do so? With a lawyer on your side after a car accident, you know a capable professional is seeking maximum compensation for you.
However, not all claims end in negotiated settlements. Sometimes, insurance companies refuse to deal fairly and offer the injured party what they truly deserve for their injuries and damages. In these instances, filing a lawsuit becomes necessary. If a skilled car accident lawyer represents you, you have the best chance of settling your claim without turning to litigation.
How an Attorney Helps in Litigation
If your case has reached the point of litigation, your attorney is likely already prepared to take your case to trial and argue for full and fair compensation on your behalf.
The negotiation process often helps prepare for trial as your attorney will have already collected evidence to support your claim, calculated your damages, and investigated the accident.
Your lawyer will prepare you for what to expect, especially if you need to testify. Keep in mind that many car accident cases that proceed to trial often end up settling right before or even during trial.
If you live in a no-fault insurance state, you might not immediately file a lawsuit. Always consult a car accident attorney to determine your options in this situation.
No-fault state laws typically require you to file a claim under your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for your medical bills, no matter who is at fault for the accident.
They also only allow you to file a lawsuit if you face certain catastrophic injuries, such as the loss of a limb or a spinal cord injury (SCI), or if your medical bills exceed a certain amount.
Such a lawsuit allows you to pursue compensation for loss of income, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, permanent impairment, and permanent disfigurement.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Car Accident?
You deserve compensation for your damages, and it’s only natural to wonder what your case might be worth. The best way to determine what kinds of damages you have and how much compensation you can receive for your injuries is to contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
There really is no limit to how much money you can file a lawsuit for. You can sue someone for as much as you want after a car accident. However, it doesn’t mean you will get that much or your lawsuit will succeed.
You have to prove your damages are worth what you are suing for. You won’t get a fair or reasonable settlement or jury award if you can’t do this. Proving damages in a car accident case can be difficult, so many injured victims turn to a car accident lawyer for help.
An attorney will know how to identify your damages and assess their value. Then, they will gather evidence to prove that you have damages and their actual value.
In addition, typical car accident settlement amounts depend on many other factors.
- The area of the country where you file your case
- The insurance policies involved and their coverage limits
- The assets of the person responsible for your accident
What is Your Claim Worth?
Your claim’s value stems from your damages. Most car accident injury victims have both economic and non-economic damages that make up the value of their claim.
Economic damages include:
- Lost income
- Medical bills and expenses
- Property damage
- Legal expenses
Economic damages are worth their face value. They are also relatively easy to establish with documentation such as estimates, bills, and receipts.
On the other hand, non-economic damages are quite subjective, don’t have a face value, and lack much evidence other than possible witness testimony and possibly medical records. Therefore, their value is usually based on the value of your economic damages in some way, such as using a multiplier related to the severity of the injuries suffered.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
Also known as exemplary damages, punitive damages are only available if your case goes to court since only a judge or a jury can award them. Punitive damages are not part of insurance settlement negotiations.
When the individual or entity responsible for your injuries demonstrated intentional misconduct or a reckless disregard for your safety, you may seek punitive damages through the court.
Punitive damages are a rare yet important component of personal injury law. Courts award punitive damages only in cases involving the at-fault party’s intentional, willful, oppressive, reckless, or fraudulent actions. This legal remedy is relatively uncommon and discourages both the responsible party and others from engaging in similar egregious behavior in the future.
How Much Does It Cost to Sue Someone?
Lawsuits can be expensive, which is one reason to try to settle your claim outside of court if possible. Most car accident attorneys are skilled negotiators who can negotiate a settlement agreement so you can avoid court.
Fees associated with car accident claims and lawsuits can include:
- Attorney fees
- Court filing fees
- Document fees
- Expert witness fees
- Copy fees
The amount of these fees will depend on your jurisdiction and the scope of your case. For example, a complex case requiring several expert witnesses will incur more fees than a more straightforward one with clear liability and damages.
The good news is that most car accident attorneys only work on contingency fees. This means you don’t pay anything now or owe them anything until they obtain compensation on your behalf.
Once you settle your claim or receive a jury award, their predetermined fee percentage comes from that. Many will also cover your other legal fees, at least until you receive compensation. If your attorney doesn’t obtain compensation in your case, you owe nothing.
Remember that while the option to sue always exists, it’s typically not the first step after a car accident. Instead, the opposing parties attempt to reach a settlement. You might want to sue if you do not receive a full and fair settlement offer.
How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
Another common question in car accident claims is why my car accident settlement is taking so long. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to determine precisely how long a car accident settlement will take. The person who can best answer this question is your own attorney, as they will know all the details of your case.
Even the simplest car accident cases can take several weeks or months. Complex cases, such as those with multiple at-fault parties, victims, or catastrophic injuries, can take a year or two. But, on the other hand, in cases where fault is abundantly clear, a settlement might happen rather quickly.
While there isn’t much you can do to expedite this process, contacting an attorney as soon as you can after realizing you have sustained injuries in a car accident and being cooperative with your attorney will help.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney to Protect Your Legal Rights Today
If you or a loved one recently suffered injuries in a car accident, you deserve financial recovery for your damages. The best way to pursue this recovery is to hire a skilled car accident attorney to represent your claim and protect your legal rights.
A consultation with a car accident lawyer offers immediate peace of mind. This session allows you to discuss the specifics of your case, gain valuable insights into the legal process, and understand your rights.
A skilled attorney can outline potential legal strategies, address concerns, and provide a roadmap for pursuing compensation. By taking this proactive step, you set the groundwork for a comprehensive and informed approach to navigating the aftermath of a car accident, fostering a sense of assurance during what can be a challenging time.
Contact a Southern California accident and injury lawyers as soon as possible to maximize your compensation.