If you sustained injuries or losses in a car accident, you may have the right to sue the at-fault party (or parties) for damages. Multiple individuals, businesses, entities, or organizations could owe you compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial injuries.
The following overview of legal rights and practical considerations explains whether you can sue after a car accident and why hiring an experienced San Diego car accident injury lawyer to handle your claim is crucial.
The Heavy Toll of Car Accidents
Car accidents can have physical, emotional, quality-of-life, and financial consequences that may leave long-lasting suffering and hardship for you and your loved ones.
A crash's physical toll is often the most prominent.
Car accidents can lead to physical harm, including:
- Fatal trauma.
- Traumatic brain injury.
- Spinal cord injury.
- Loss of limbs.
- Vital organ damage.
- Nerve injuries.
- Facial injuries and loss of eyesight.
- Broken bones.
- Back, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Torn ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
The above is not a complete list, but it gives you a sense of the variety of physical traumas that could follow a car accident.
Many people underestimate the challenges of post-accident emotional and mental trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression. Individuals coping with debilitating or chronic pain after an accident are frequently vulnerable to substance use disorders involving prescription pain medications. These injuries, though invisible, can have as profound an effect on an accident victim's life as any physical trauma.
Quality of Life Injuries
Physical and emotional trauma often limits your ability to work, participate in activities you once enjoyed, and maintain personal or intimate relationships and deprives you of your independence and sense of autonomy. A decline in your quality of life can spur a vicious spiral of negative physical, emotional, and financial consequences.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the estimated annual cost of car accidents in the United States amounts to a staggering hundreds of billions of dollars, including loss-of-productivity, medical, legal, court, emergency service, insurance administration, and property damage costs.
Victims of car accidents often suffer devastating financial losses. The cost of medical care alone can be enough to make individuals file for personal bankruptcy. The loss of income and job benefits from missing or being unable to return to work because of a disability only amplifies the financial strain many accident victims feel.
Liability for a Car Accident: Who Can Be Held Accountable?
An individual, business, organization, or other entity is generally liable for a car accident if its negligence contributed to causing the crash or if the law otherwise holds it responsible for the victim's injuries. Negligence occurs when a party breaches a duty of care toward others, causing an accident that injures one or more victims.
A victim can typically seek compensation from multiple parties potentially liable for a car accident, including:
- A careless or reckless driver.
- The employer of a driver who crashes a work vehicle.
- An automotive manufacturer that produces defective vehicles or parts.
- A government agency that is responsible for unsafe road conditions.
- A bar, restaurant, or social host that serves alcohol to an underage drunk driver.
- A liability insurance company that sold insurance to any of the above.
Never assume the other driver is the only party liable for your injuries. The most reliable way to discover who to pursue for compensation after a car accident is to speak with an experienced attorney today.
Potential Compensation Available to Car Accident Victims
The law recognizes that car accidents can lead to multiple damages, many extending beyond immediate medical bills or vehicle repair costs. Victims can typically pursue compensation for all damages. Lawyers generally categorize recoverable damages after a car accident into three categories.
These are tangible financial losses because of an accident.
They're generally easy to calculate, as they pertain to identifiable expenses, including:
- Medical bills and costs for future medical care.
- Vehicle repair and replacement costs.
- Other out-of-pocket expenses from the accident or a victim's injuries.
- Lost income from missing work.
- Loss of future earnings.
These damages account for the non-financial losses car accident victims suffer, including physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental health challenges, loss of independence or enjoyment of life, and coping difficulties with scarring, disfigurement, or bodily function loss.
Unlike non-economic and economic damages, punitive damages punish the at-fault party for engaging in extreme or malicious misconduct and deter similar conduct by others instead of compensating the victim.
Suing Isn't Always Necessary
Suing isn't always necessary after a car accident to get the compensation you deserve. Many car accident victims never step inside a courtroom before obtaining money from at-fault parties and insurance companies. Below are several options available to you that an experienced lawyer could handle.
Settlement Before an Insurance Claim or Lawsuit
In many cases, a car accident victim can negotiate a settlement directly with the at-fault party or their insurance company before filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit. Often the fastest course of action, it avoids the bureaucracy and time-consuming processes of the legal and insurance systems. An attorney negotiates for you to ensure you're getting a fair deal.
Settlement of a Third-Party Insurance Claim Under At-Fault Party's Liability Coverage
If the at-fault party's insurance company accepts liability for the accident, the victim may submit a third-party insurance claim under the at-fault party's liability policy. The victim's lawyer and the at-fault party's insurance company will then negotiate a claim settlement. This option allows victims to avoid court proceedings and receive compensation sooner.
Suing for Damages
If the involved parties cannot reach a satisfactory settlement or if the victim can't or doesn't want to negotiate with the at-fault party or their insurance company directly, the victim may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
Your lawsuit could end in various ways. You might reach a settlement in which the parties agree on a compensation amount before the trial concludes. A court judgment with a judge ruling on liability and damages might be necessary.
A jury might decide how much compensation to award the victim after a trial. To give your claim the greatest chance of success, always select a car accident lawyer with experience achieving favorable results in cases like yours.
Services a Car Accident Lawyer Provides
There's a lot more to handling a car accident claim than just filing paperwork. It's a complicated, time-consuming, legally intensive process. As the victim of a car accident, dealing with your injuries and disruptions to your daily life is more than enough. You need someone to pursue compensation from the at-fault party and insurance companies for you, allowing you to focus your time and energy on healing and rebuilding after your trauma.
The steps a car accident lawyer takes vary depending on your case's needs. They may include:
- Assessing the particulars of your case and determining the best legal strategies.
- Investigating the accident to gather all necessary evidence and identify the parties who owe you compensation.
- Evaluating the damages you've suffered to ensure any strategy pursues the maximum possible compensation.
- Dealing with insurance companies as your representative.
- Filing and managing all necessary paperwork for a lawsuit or car insurance claim.
- Negotiating a settlement whenever possible.
- Representing you in court if a lawsuit becomes necessary.
- Advising you every step of the way, answering all your questions, and addressing your concerns.
Car accident lawyers are trained professionals. They understand the nuances of car accident laws and the tactics that insurance companies use to avoid paying compensation to injured crash victims like you. Their extensive knowledge and experience uniquely equip them to fight for your rights and secure the compensation you deserve.
Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer Is Affordable
One common misconception about hiring a car accident attorney is that it might be unaffordable, especially in the face of mounting medical bills and other accident-related expenses. It's actually affordable no matter what your financial circumstances.
Most car accident attorneys offer free consultations. During an initial meeting, a knowledgeable legal professional assesses your case, answers your questions, and explains what your claim might be worth. There is no financial risk in sitting down with a car accident law firm to discuss your rights and potential lawsuit.
Car accident lawyers also represent injured crash victims on contingency, meaning you don't pay legal fees unless your lawyer secures a settlement on your behalf. Contingent fees ensure that anyone can afford high-quality legal representation after a car accident without having to pay upfront fees or hourly rates for the lawyer's services.
Steps for Protecting Your Rights After a Car Accident
Protecting your rights after a car accident is of the utmost importance. Below are a few steps you can take to protect your rights and increase your chances of receiving fair and just compensation.
Focus On Healing
Your immediate priority after a car accident should be taking care of your health. Getting the necessary medical treatment is imperative for a quick recovery and crucial for your eventual legal claim.
The at-fault party's insurance company may use any delay or lapse in treatment for your injuries to mark your claim as questionable. Follow the treatment regime your medical care providers prescribe to protect your health and your case.
Beware of Quick, Lowball Liability Insurance Settlements
Insurance companies often offer quick, lowball settlements to limit their financial liability. Accepting such an offer might seem enticing, especially when you have mounting medical bills to pay, but doing so requires you to waive your right to further compensation.
Initial settlement offers rarely account for the long-term costs of rehabilitation, losses in earnings, consequences on your quality of life, and more. Let an experienced lawyer respond to the insurer and negotiate to secure the maximum compensation you deserve.
Hire a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
Hiring a lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident can significantly improve your chances of securing the maximum compensation. A seasoned car accident attorney gathers crucial evidence before it gets lost. A lawyer can also take steps to ensure you meet strict deadlines for taking legal action.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Today
You may have the right to sue or take other legal actions after getting hurt in a car accident.
To get the maximum compensation possible, you'll need to hire an experienced car accident lawyer to handle your claim.
Contact a top-rated personal injury law firm in San Diego today for a free consultation.