Can I Sue After a Car Accident?

Can I Sue After a Car Accident
Can I Sue After a Car Accident?

It isn't just the fear, shock, and inconvenience of a car accident that makes it hard for victims to cope with the event. It's also the incredible physical trauma and financial strain. 

However, personal injury protection, uninsured motorist coverage, or bodily injury liability may not be enough to cover all of your expenses. 

In these cases, injured parties may wonder, "Can I sue after a car accident?

Unfortunately, the answer is not always clear-cut and depends on a variety of factors. 

By understanding the laws and regulations surrounding car collisions and personal injury lawsuits, you can make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue legal action with a Minneapolis car accident lawyer.

When Can You Sue for a Car Accident?

Understanding Fault Laws

Every state has varying laws for determining fault in an auto accident

Some states operate under a no-fault system where each driver's insurance company covers their own damages, regardless of who is at fault. This means that you cannot sue the other driver for damages unless your injuries reach a certain threshold. 

Other states follow a comparative negligence system where both parties may be held responsible for the accident, and damages are divided accordingly. When insurance or personal injury protection isn't enough to cover all expenses, you may sue the other driver for compensation. 

At-fault laws in some states allow you to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, the compensation you receive based on your percentage of fault in the accident may be limited.

Ultimately, a car accident attorney can help you understand the fault laws in your state and determine if you have a valid case for suing the at-fault driver.

Statute of Limitations

Can I Sue After a Car Accident I Statute of Limitation

If you are in a state that allows you to sue after a car accident, it's essential to be aware of the statute of limitations. This is the time frame in which you must file a lawsuit before your claim becomes invalid.

The statute of limitations varies by state, typically one to six years after the accident. 

While this may seem like a long time, time can pass quickly, robbing you of your chance to receive compensation for damages. Starting the process early is important due to recovery time, evidence gathering, and potential negotiations with the other party's insurance company.

Some states, including Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Minnesota, have exceptions that shorten or extend the statute of limitations, including but not limited to:

  • Minors who suffer injuries. Many states allow minors to wait until they reach the age of 18 to file a lawsuit. So, if a child sustained accident injuries that they didn't discover until later in their life, the statute of limitations begins when they turn 18.
  • Discovery rule exceptions. In some states, if the injuries sustained from a car accident are not immediately apparent or were caused by medical negligence, then the statute of limitations may start at the time of discovery rather than the date of the accident.
  • Government entity involvement. If a government entity is involved in the accident, such as a police car or public transportation vehicle, the statute of limitations may be shorter.

Understanding your state's statute of limitations and any exceptions that may apply before deciding whether to sue after a crash is crucial. An experienced car accident attorney can help you navigate these complex laws and ensure that you meet all necessary deadlines.

What Can You Sue for in a Car Accident?

Medical Expenses

Can I Sue After a Car Accident I Medical Expenses

Medical expenses often prove to be the highest cost after a motor vehicle accident. 

Specifically, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and spinal cord damage can result in upfront costs exceeding $350,000 and lifelong medical expenses totaling $3+ million.

Whiplash injuries, which are common in rear-end accidents, can also result in significant medical bills. Initial costs often include doctor's visits, X-rays, and other diagnostic tests, while ongoing expenses may include physical therapy, chiropractic care, or prescription medications. 

By the time a lawsuit is settled, current and future whiplash expenses could total hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

Broken bones, fractures, and other injuries that require surgery can add $25,000+ per injury to medical costs. Factor in hourly fees ranging from $85 to $300+ for physical therapy, medications, and medical devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, or walkers, and the resulting costs can be overwhelming.

Lost Wages and Earning Potential

Car accidents can impact your ability to work, whether due to injuries, a totaled vehicle, or court appearances. This can result in lost wages and earning potential.

Lost wages refer to income you missed because you were off work while recovering from injuries. If you exhaust all available sick or vacation days, you may have to take unpaid leave, which can negatively affect your finances.

Earning potential refers to the amount of money you would have earned over your career if you hadn't suffered injuries from the accident. If your injuries prevent you from returning to work or limit your ability to perform certain tasks, you may be able to sue for compensation for this lost earning potential.

Worker's compensation may cover some of these costs, but in cases where the accident was especially egregious or the other driver was uninsured, a lawsuit may be necessary to receive full compensation.

Pain and Suffering

Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life are also factors that can be sued for in a car accident. These damages compensate for the physical and emotional toll the accident has taken on your quality of life.

Pain and suffering encompasses both physical pain and mental anguish caused by injuries sustained in an accident. This can include chronic pain or discomfort, loss of mobility, and mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

Emotional distress refers to any psychological harm caused by the accident, such as fear, stress, or PTSD. Loss of enjoyment of life compensates for any changes in your lifestyle or daily activities due to injuries sustained in the accident.

Calculating pain and suffering damages requires the help of a car accident lawyer. They can determine an appropriate value for your pain and suffering, considering factors such as the severity of your injuries, duration of recovery, and impact on your daily life.

Property Damage

In addition to personal injuries, you may also sue for property damage resulting from a car collision. This includes damages to your vehicle and any personal belongings damaged or lost in the accident.

If the crash totaled your car, meaning the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the vehicle, then you may recover compensation for the current market value of your car. This can also include rental car expenses while your vehicle is repaired or replaced.

Considering that the average cost of a car in the USA hovers between $35,000 and $48,000 depending on its newness, this can significantly harm your finances. Keep track of all receipts and repair estimates to prove the extent of your property damage.

Pre-existing Conditions

A successful personal injury lawsuit requires proving that the injuries sustained in the accident directly resulted from the other driver's negligence or recklessness. 

If you had pre-existing injuries or conditions, you will need to show that your existing condition was aggravated or exacerbated. Many cases involve pre-existing injuries or conditions, but you will likely need an expert medical witness(s) and a personal injury attorney as these cases can be difficult. 

Wrongful Death

Causing the death of another person in an auto accident can result in criminal charges. However, you may also sue for wrongful death in a civil lawsuit.

If a loved one has died as a result of someone else's negligence or recklessness in a car accident, their family members may recover compensation for medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income or support, and other damages. Wrongful death lawsuits can provide a sense of justice and financial stability for those left behind.

A personal injury law firm with a track record of success in handling car accident cases can provide guidance and support for families seeking justice after the loss of a loved one.

What You May Not Be Able to Sue for After a Car Accident

Minor damages or injuries. 

Some states have a threshold for damages or injuries that qualify for a lawsuit. 

These are typically minor injuries or damages that don't result in significant medical bills, lost wages, or property damage. 

Before you decide the level of damages you sustained, consult a car accident attorney to see if your case qualifies for a lawsuit. 

Attorney fees.

Can I Sue After a Car Accident I Attorneys' Fees

Injured victims may or may not sue to recover their attorneys' fees, depending on which state the car accident occurred in. 

Some states only allow compensation for legal fees if the negligent party violated a specific statute, while others don't allow for attorneys' fees at all.

Consult a personal injury attorney to understand the laws and regulations in your state.

Witnessing an accident.

If you witness a car accident and suffer emotional distress, you may not sue for damages. 

To have a successful lawsuit, the harm must have occurred directly to you and not just as a result of witnessing the accident.

When YOU are at fault.

At-fault drivers, especially those cited for drunk or reckless driving, may not sue for damages in a car accident. By performing these particularly negligent actions, the at-fault driver essentially forfeits their right to sue for damages. 

Consult an attorney to understand the laws and regulations in your state regarding liability and compensation.

What Is the Difference Between a Negotiation and a Lawsuit?

How Personal Injury Law Firms Tackle Your Case.

Negotiation or litigation are the two main options for settling disputes after a car accident. Both can end up with the same outcome – compensation for damages sustained. 

However, you will find significant differences between the two approaches.

Negotiation involves lawyers resolving the dispute outside of court. However, other individuals, such as mediators or claims adjusters, may also participate.

Negotiation can occur before you file a lawsuit, during the litigation process, or even after the court rules. It aims to reach a fair settlement between the parties involved, avoiding the time and expense of a lawsuit.

On the other hand, litigation refers to taking legal action through a court system. 

This often involves filing a formal complaint or lawsuit against the other party in the car accident. Litigation can cost a lot of time and money but unsuccessful negotiations may require it.

If you choose to work with a personal injury law firm, they will handle your case through either negotiation and/or litigation. They will gather evidence, communicate with insurance companies and other parties involved, and fight for fair compensation on your behalf.

When insurance, the at-fault party, or other factors prevent you from receiving fair compensation after a car accident, you may need to sue. Filing a personal injury lawsuit can seek justice and financial stability for your physical, emotional, and economic damages.

Every aspect of personal injury law is complex and nuanced. This is why you need guidance from auto accident attorneys with experience in these cases. They can navigate the legal process, explain your rights, and fight for the compensation you deserve. 

After a car accident caused by someone else's negligence or recklessness, don't hesitate to get a free consultation from your local personal injury attorney.