If you suffer injuries in a car crash resulting from someone else’s negligence, you can file a lawsuit for damages. Before filing your lawsuit in the court system, you will file a claim with the insurance company. In most instances, you will be dealing with the insurance company for the at-fault driver.
However, if that driver did not have insurance, or if they did not have sufficient insurance at the time of the accident, you might need to file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim with your insurer. If settlement negotiations between your lawyer and the insurance company break down and the case does not settle, you can file a lawsuit in court.
To prevail in a car accident lawsuit, you must satisfy various legal elements:
- You must demonstrate that another driver behaved unreasonably under the circumstances.
- You must show that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident.
- Through medical testimony, you must prove that you suffered at least one injury in the accident and that your injury directly resulted from the accident.
Once you establish these elements, you might be eligible to recover monetary compensation and damages.
A car accident lawyer can help you satisfy the legal elements of proof in your car accident claim or lawsuit. Your lawyer can then help you pursue the maximum compensation in your case.
What Are Some Common Causes of Car Crashes?
Car crashes occur for various reasons. In some instances, these accidents happen because other drivers are negligent. At other times, roadways are defective and vehicle parts malfunction.
Some of the most common types of driver negligence that lead to car accidents include:
- Drunk driving – Drivers must refrain from operating their vehicles while impaired by alcohol. For example, Alberta’s legal drunk driving cut-off is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher. However, even a driver with a lower BAC can experience the negative effects of alcohol impairment. For example, a driver under the influence might not stop their vehicle in time to avoid a collision. Alternatively, the driver might experience blurry vision and other physical symptoms. Drunk drivers frequently veer across median strips, double lines, and other lane markings, inadvertently bringing about a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian and causing a drunk driving accident.
- Distracted driving – Some car crashes happen when drivers fail to pay attention to the road. Drivers must operate their vehicles carefully and watch their surroundings. Drivers can’t do this when they are programming a GPS device, texting on a cellular phone or tablet, or turning their heads away from the road for some other reason. Even though a one or two-second distraction might not seem like much time, it is enough time for a driver to miss a pedestrian or another vehicle in their vicinity.
- Moving violations – In addition to operating their vehicles safely, drivers have an affirmative duty to obey all traffic laws and regulations. When drivers willfully violate these traffic laws, they significantly increase their chances of causing an accident. Common road rule violations that lead to traffic collisions include failing to yield the right-of-way at the proper time, speeding, tailgating, and engaging in aggressive driving. Accidents also happen when drivers fail to use their turn signals and zealously weave in and out of traffic when in a hurry.
If you suffered injuries in a recent car accident resulting from negligence, you have several legal options. Your lawyer can assist you throughout the claims-filing process and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. If the insurance company does not compensate you fairly, your lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf in the civil courts, seeking the damages you need.
Car Accident Injuries
Car accidents can lead to severe injuries for drivers and passengers alike. The injuries that a car crash victim suffers depend upon many factors, including the impact force and the type of collision. Sometimes, the force of an impact is so great that it causes an accident victim’s body to strike something in their vehicle, like the headrest, steering wheel, window, door frame, or dashboard, leading to a severe injury.
Common car accident injuries include traumatic brain and head injuries, neck injuries, muscular contusions, whiplash injuries, internal injuries, bone fractures, spinal cord damage, and paralysis. Some car accident injuries are so severe that they lead to an accident victim’s premature death. Head-on collisions, in particular, can lead to fatal injuries.
If you suffered injuries in a car crash, your first trip should be to the hospital emergency room or urgent care center so that a healthcare provider can examine you. A doctor can determine if you need emergency medical treatment, such as surgery, and will take the necessary imaging studies, including MRIs and X-rays, to ascertain your physical condition.
In addition, a doctor can recommend follow-up treatment and even refer you to a specialist if necessary. When you treat your injuries, it is essential that you do not skip appointments and that you treat them continuously. Otherwise, the insurance company will use that fact against you. For instance, the insurance company adjuster might claim that your injuries were not serious since you did not make your medical treatment a priority.
While you focus most of your attention on getting better, your lawyer can start handling the legal components of your case. First, your lawyer can gather up your wage loss statements and medical treatment records to date. In addition, you can prepare a victim impact statement describing the impact of the car accident on your overall life.
Finally, your lawyer can obtain copies of property damage photographs, and pictures of your injuries to include with the settlement demand package they prepare. Once you complete your treatment, your lawyer can submit the complete demand package to the insurance company and start negotiating a settlement on your behalf.
What Are the Prerequisites for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Before filing a lawsuit after your car accident, you and your lawyer will need to:
- Complete as much of your medical treatment as possible
- Prepare a settlement demand letter that makes a monetary demand for settlement within the limits of the available insurance policy.
- Ensure that the insurance company accepts liability for your car accident
- Negotiate with the insurance company adjuster to see if the case can resolve through settlement.
Even though most initial settlement offers are not very good, your lawyer can negotiate with the adjuster several times to see if they will increase their initial offer.
Car Accident Litigation
Car accident victims in places like Alberta only have two years from their accident date to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages. If they don’t file their lawsuit within those two years, they waive their right to recover monetary damages for their injuries.
Litigation begins when a lawyer files a lawsuit in court. If the parties negotiate several times and they reach an impasse, your lawyer can file suit on your behalf. However, just because your lawyer files a lawsuit does not necessarily mean that your case will need to go all the way to trial. Most car accident claims settle without much litigation and long before the trial date. Therefore, even after filing suit, your lawyer may continue settlement negotiations with the insurance company adjuster.
During litigation, the parties will engage in discovery. During this stage, the parties will exchange answers to written questions, called interrogatories, about how the accident occurred, the injuries sustained, the medical treatment received, and the overall impact of the injuries on the accident victim’s life.
The defense lawyer might also take the accident victim’s discovery deposition to learn more about the accident and their version of the case. If the matter does not resolve at the end of litigation, the parties may go to a settlement conference with the court.
The settlement conference is a last-ditch effort to see if the court can help the parties facilitate a resolution. If the matter does not settle at the settlement conference, the parties can take their case to trial, where a jury will decide all disputed issues—including the total monetary damages to award. As an alternative to a jury trial, the parties might consider mediation or binding arbitration with a neutral, third-party arbitrator who decides the case outcome.
Your lawyer can help you decide whether you should accept a particular settlement offer from the insurance company, file a lawsuit, or take your case to a jury trial or alternative dispute resolution proceeding.
What Damages Can I Recover From a Car Accident Lawsuit?
The goal of filing a lawsuit after a car accident is to recover all of the monetary compensation you deserve for your injuries. Every car accident is different, and different personal injury plaintiffs recover different amounts of damages.
The financial compensation that a car accident victim receives will depend upon their injuries, their pain and suffering levels, and other related factors. The court where your case is pending can also be a factor when determining your settlement or jury verdict compensation. This is because some venues are more generous to accident victim plaintiffs than others. Insurance companies know this and assign settlement values accordingly, based upon the venue where the case is pending.
Generally speaking, the more serious the property damage and injuries, the more compensable the personal injury case. This is because insurance companies and juries often assume that extensive property damage and severe injuries translate into high amounts of pain, suffering, and inconvenience—all of which are legally compensable in a personal injury case.
First, car accident victims can receive monetary compensation for lost earnings when a healthcare provider tells them to take time off work to recover. The accident victim might be in too much pain to work, or they may need time off to seek medical treatment or recover from surgery.
If the accident victim has to switch jobs or careers due to their injuries, they can file a claim for loss of earning capacity. This is especially true if they had to take a pay cut when they switched jobs.
Car accident victims can also receive non-economic damages, including compensation for their mental distress, emotional anguish, inconvenience, humiliation, pain, and suffering. If their quality of life decreases because of their injuries, they can bring a claim for loss of life enjoyment.
Finally, if they suffered a permanent impairment in their accident that prevents them from using a body part, they can file a loss of use claim. These claims are common in car accidents where the accident victim suffers full or partial paralysis. A car accident lawyer in your area will work hard to maximize the damages you recover in your case.
Call a Car Accident Lawyer Today
Retaining a skilled personal injury lawyer to represent you is one of the most important steps you can take following your car crash. Your lawyer will have your legal interests in mind and can help you pursue the damages you need to become whole again after your accident. Contact us to seek a free case evaluation from a trusted lawyer.