There are many elements involved in a car accident lawsuit, and each situation has significant differences. More severe accidents often result in settlements or awards of higher value because the injured party suffered more losses, resulting in more damages. Ultimately, whether or not you receive a settlement depends on the damages you incurred and what role you played in the cause of the accident. Suppose you sustained an injury or lost a loved one in a car accident. In that case, you may benefit from speaking to a car accident attorney about the details of the accident and the potential to recover compensation.
Factors That Affect Your Settlement From a Car Accident Lawsuit
The first step in recovering financial support for your losses is to file an insurance claim. If the other driver is responsible for the accident, you will file a claim with their insurance provider. However, insurance adjusters always act in the company’s best interest, and they investigate the accident as soon as you file a claim to search for evidence that might free them of the burden of paying out. Therefore, you should expect a fight. You may even face bad faith tactics, such as refusing to make a payment for a valid claim or delaying payment without a reason or explanation.
Your next option is to file a lawsuit. As the plaintiff, the burden of proving that the defendant acted negligently falls on you. Additionally, you have to prove that the negligent action caused the accident and the accident caused your injuries. To better understand this process, you need to know what classifies as damages and how fault affects your potential settlement.
What Are the Potential Damages?
Like all personal injury cases, you cannot sue without damages. Damages come in two forms: compensatory damages, designed to replace what the injured party lost, and punitive damages, which punish the at-fault party for intentionally harming another or acting with gross negligence. Compensatory damages include:
- The cost of medical treatments, including hospital and doctor visits, ambulance expenses, any medical devices needed for your injuries, necessary therapies or continued treatment, and the cost of medication
- The total of lost wages, including future lost wages caused by a need for further treatment or the loss of earning capacity that may occur if your injuries left you with a disability that hinders your ability to perform the job you did before the accident
- Pain and suffering as evidenced by your own written statement, the opinions of mental health professionals, and testimonies from friends and family
- Emotional distress or mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship if a loved one died as a result of a car accident
- The cost of replacing or repairing any property damaged in the accident, including items in the car as well as the vehicle itself
- Any other related expenses, such as any hired staff needed to perform household duties
Sometimes injuries result in severe disfigurement or cause such mental anguish that you lose the ability to enjoy life as you did before. These are potential damages for which you can seek compensation. The court and attorneys often look at precedented cases similar to yours to place a monetary value on the non-economic damages properly.
Punitive damages are reserved for the rare cases where the defendant’s actions display a blatant disregard for other human beings. This award is often substantial because it does not compensate for any financial or non-economic loss. Instead, it punishes the defendant and hopefully encourages them to refrain from similar behavior in the future. For example, you may seek punitive damages if you lost a loved one in a car accident involving a drunk or impaired driver.
What if You Share Fault for the Accident and Your Injuries?
The most common response from the insurance company following a filed claim or lawsuit is an accusation of shared fault for the accident. Sometimes accidents are relatively straightforward with a clear at-fault party. For example, such is usually the case in rear-end collisions. However, when both parties share liability for the accident, they also share financial responsibility for the damages. The court uses the state-mandated rule of comparative fault, also known as the comparative negligence rule, to determine how much of the value of damages you can receive.
Under the comparative fault rule, the court requires the jury to determine two important numbers: the percentage or fault for each party and the plaintiff’s award. If you bear any responsibility for the accident, your share of fault is deducted from the awarded compensation. Whether or not you can receive any compensation depends on which form of the rule the state follows. The rule of comparative fault comes in two forms:
- Modified comparative fault states that you are eligible for compensation if you are not more at fault than the defendant. Some states set the threshold for eligibility at 50%, which means that you must be no more than 49% responsible to receive the award. Fewer states use a threshold of 51%, which allows you to receive compensation as long as you are 50% or less responsible.
- Pure comparative fault states that you can receive compensation if you are less than 100% responsible for the accident. For example, if the jury finds you 80% at fault, you can still recover the award after 80% is deducted.
Only 13 states follow the rule of pure comparative fault. Some states attempt to thwart car accident lawsuits altogether by requiring no-fault insurance. No-fault states require all licensed drivers operating vehicles to have personal injury protection coverage. PIP insurance covers the economic damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, in the event of an accident. Essentially, drivers in no-fault states turn to their own insurance for compensation regardless of who is liable for the accident.
Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer to Help Your Case
When you suffer an injury from a car accident, medical bills can pile up quickly during a time when you have no income because you cannot work. If you are still unsure about your potential for receiving a settlement, you may benefit from consulting with a car accident attorney about your options. In your initial consultation, the attorney will ask you to provide as many details about the accident as possible and present you with questions that help them better understand your chances of receiving a settlement.
Car accident lawsuits are often complex, especially when navigating the rules and applicable laws surrounding liability. For someone unfamiliar with the nuances of this legal process, seeking compensation can be stressful and overwhelming. An experienced car accident lawyer can provide guidance and help you better understand your rights in civil cases. Jason Stone Injury Lawyers require no upfront fee to get started on your case right away. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures that we get paid only after you get paid. Our team is ready to assist you and answer any questions you may have about your accident and a potential lawsuit. We are here to help you get your life back without adding to the financial burden associated with the aftermath of a car accident. There’s No Obligation, Just Information. Contact us today for a free consultation.