You may be thinking of suing after a car accident if you were not at fault for the accident. Personal injury lawsuits are one way to recover damages for financial strain as well as pain and suffering caused by the wreck.
This article will provide general advice about suing after a car accident. For the best advice regarding your particular situation, you should contact a car accident lawyer. Many personal injury lawyers offer free consultations and will work on a contingency basis. This means you only pay them after a successful lawsuit with a percentage of the car accident settlement.
It's a good idea to get an estimate of how much money you could receive and to find lawyers in your area.
In this article:
- Should You Sue After A Car Accident?
- How Long After A Wreck Can You Sue?
- Who Do You Sue After A Car Accident?
- How Are Car Accident Lawsuits Settled?
- What Is The Average Settlement For A Car Accident?
- Is It Worth Suing After A Car Accident?
- What To Do If Someone Sues You After An Accident
- Contact An Attorney For Help
Should You Sue After A Car Accident?
Not every car accident claim requires a lawsuit. In most cases, suing after a car accident is unnecessary. If nobody was hurt and the other driver has auto insurance, chances are their insurance company will reimburse you for the cost of your repairs. In some instances, however, it’s a good idea to sue after a car accident.
If you’ve filed an insurance claim that was denied, were offered an especially low settlement, and/or the insurance company refuses to negotiate, you might consider legal action.
Compensation should cover your documented costs (such as medical bills and repair bills) as well as pain and suffering. Pain and suffering usually only come into play if someone has been physically injured in a car accident. Typically, the worse the injury, the more you will end up getting for pain and suffering when you are suing after a car accident. But exactly how to calculate pain and suffering can be subjective. It is in this regard that the insurance company is most likely to lowball you.
If the other driver doesn’t have insurance, you may have no choice but to initiate a lawsuit. Most lawyers don’t recommend this because people without insurance may not have any assets to take. This means that even if you win a case, the other person has no money to take for compensation. In these cases, it is usually better to file a claim with your own uninsured motorist insurance policy (if you have one).
How Long After A Wreck Can You Sue?
The amount of time you must wait to sue after a car accident depends on the individual state. Every state has a statute of limitations for personal injury cases involving motor vehicles. Once the statute of limitations has expired, you cannot sue for damages. State statute of limitation lengths are detailed in the chart below:
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases (Auto)
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
If you are considering suing after a car accident, it is best to start the process as soon as possible. You don't want to forget any important details of the accident, and it may take some time to gather and submit the necessary paperwork. It is to your advantage to have related documents close at hand when you file your lawsuit.
Who Do You Sue After A Car Accident?
If you’ve decided to pursue a personal injury claim, the next question may be: Who do I sue? Do you sue the driver? The person who owns the car? Or do you sue the car owner’s insurance company? The answer to these questions depends on the circumstances of the accident as well as the state where the accident occurred.
In most cases, suing after a car accident means suing the other driver. You would not sue the insurance company. However, that driver’s insurance company will likely be the one paying any settlement.
In no-fault states, your insurance company is required to pay for your medical expenses regardless of who is at fault. The chart below lists each of the no-fault states.
*These are optional no-fault states. This means that drivers can choose whether to work under the no-fault system.
In some cases, you may be able to sue someone other than the driver of the other vehicle. If the vehicle owner is different from the driver and there is a provable reason the owner should not have allowed the driver to operate the vehicle, you can sue the vehicle owner – for example, if someone knowingly let an inebriated friend borrow their car.
Sometimes, you may be able to sue the other driver’s employer if that person was driving on the job. This may be possible if you can prove that the employer engaged in negligent hiring, negligent supervision, negligent training, or policies that incentivized negligent driving.
Who Pays When You Sue After A Car Accident?
When you sue in a car accident, the auto insurance carrier of the person you sue will typically pay any damages as determined by the court. If the other person does not have insurance or insurance will not cover the claim, then that person would have to pay.
How Are Car Accident Lawsuits Settled?
The most important factor in determining how lawsuits are settled is liability. Who was the at-fault driver? All drivers have a responsibility to drive in a way that ensures the safety of other drivers on the road. Not all accidents are cut-and-dry. Oftentimes, there is shared liability between both parties involved in the accident.
In shared-liability cases, compensation may depend on the state. In some cases, as long as the other driver is more than 50 percent at fault, they will be considered liable. Other states may require a greater percentage of fault.
When determining the amount of compensation, a number of factors are considered. These include:
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of future income
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral and burial costs
- Punitive damages
What Is The Average Settlement For A Car Accident?
The settlement from a car accident can range greatly from person to person. Settlement amounts are based on the state, severity of injuries, amount the insurance company is willing to pay, medical bills, repair bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Generally, the higher the bills, the higher the settlement. Accidents involving serious and high-impact injuries likely end with higher settlements.
Is It Worth Suing After A Car Accident?
Suing after a car accident is not always necessary. In cases where there are no injuries, it is rarely worth it to sue, especially if the fault is clearly established. Before filing a suit, you should first file an auto insurance claim.
If the other driver was at fault for the accident, their insurance company should provide a compensation offer after you file your claim. If there were no physical injuries, this compensation will likely be enough to cover your property damage expenses. However, if you believe the insurance company’s offer is too low, you are free to reject the offer and go to court. If an insurance company refuses to pay a claim or gives you a lowball offer, it’s a good idea to contract the services of a lawyer who can help you figure out how to get the most money for a car accident.
If you were injured in a car accident, your claim is likely to be worth more, and there is a better chance that the insurance company will not pay out as much as you could get in court, especially for serious physical injuries. Lawyers know how to calculate pain and suffering, so they can help make your best case.
Keep in mind that if you are suing after a car accident, the success of your case will depend upon your ability to prove the other driver was at fault, as well as the extent of your injuries. Elements typically used in court to determine fault include:
- Police reports
- Unbiased witness testimony
- Video evidence
To prove injuries, be sure to keep receipts for all medical expenses and repair bills.
What To Do If Someone Sues You After An Accident
If someone sues you after a car accident, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as possible. If you have insurance coverage, your insurance carrier will be responsible for damages up to the maximum amount described by your policy.
Because your insurance company will want to avoid paying out a hefty claim, it may provide you with an attorney. The insurance company attorney may seem like an attractive option, especially if you cannot afford an attorney yourself. However, keep in mind that the lawyer provided by your insurance company will work in the best interests of your insurer, which are not necessarily your best interests.
After a lawsuit is filed, there is a chance that a settlement will be reached before the case is taken to court. An accident lawyer working on your behalf should try to negotiate a fair settlement that does not exceed the liability limits of your insurance policy. If you are ordered to pay $30,000 in damages but your insurance policy has a $25,000 limit, you will be on the hook for the additional $5,000.
Contact An Attorney For Help
If you plan on suing after a car accident, or if you're being sued, be sure to quickly contact a car accident attorney. There is a lot of work to do before filing a lawsuit, so it’s important to start the process as soon as possible. Plus, how long after an accident you can sue will depend on where you live, so you’ll want to make sure your case is heard before your statute of limitations expires.
Many lawyers offer free consultations and may only request payment after a successful suit.
Read our other articles on car insurance:
- How To Get The Most Money For A Car Accident
- What If You Can’t Pay Your Car Insurance Deductible?
- Can Someone Else Insure My Car?
- Do You Need A Lawyer After A Car Accident?