Frequently Asked Questions about Motor Vehicle Accidents
Frequently Asked Questions About Motor Vehicle Accidents
Q: I have been in a motor vehicle accident. Should I go to a doctor?
A: Yes. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should see a doctor right away. First, you should see a doctor for your own well-being. You likely will not be able to discern the extent of your injuries yourself. An initially small ache could actually be something significant, but only a doctor can tell you for sure. Furthermore, if you decide to bring a legal claim against the at-fault driver or another party, you will need documentation of your injuries and any treatment you received.
Q: Do I have to go to court if I want to recover monetary damages?
A: It depends. Your case may settle before your attorney even files a formal lawsuit, or it may go all the way to a trial and a jury verdict. The majority of legal actions are settled before they get to trial, but what happens in your case depends on the facts, the law and the parties involved.
Q: If the accident was totally or partially my fault, can I still recover compensation?
A: Some states have no-fault insurance laws. This means that you may be able to make some recovery of economic damages from your own insurance company. In other states, if your fault is found to be over a certain level, it is more difficult to recover compensation, or your recovery could be capped at the percentage to which you are found to be at fault. This is known as “comparative fault” or “comparative negligence.” An attorney in your state can advise you on the rules in your area.
Q: How do I determine how much my personal injury case is worth?
A: Your attorney will be in a much better position to give you an approximate value for your case, but sometimes even experienced attorneys can’t necessarily pinpoint what your case is worth until it is close to a resolution. Many factors, including the circumstances of the accident, the state in which it occurred, the extent of any injuries, the types of vehicles involved, and the insurance companies at issue can all influence the outcome. Medical expenses, lost income, the nature of the injuries, and any permanent disability arising from them will also play a role. An experienced lawyer can work with you to determine whether to pursue legal action and how best to proceed if you decide to do so.
Q: How soon do I need to bring a legal claim against the other driver?
A: It is best to speak with your insurance company and an attorney right away. The time limits for taking legal action vary by state, and those time limits, known as “statutes of limitation,” may be affected by insurance policy terms and conditions. The nature of your injuries could also change the amount of time you have to bring a claim.
Q: What if the insurance company offers me a check right away?
A: It is fairly common for an insurance company to give you a “lowball” offer in order to get you to settle a claim quickly. Before you sign or accept anything from an insurance company, you need to fully understand your legal rights and options. Accepting a check could mean that you are giving up your right to sue later on if you need extra medical care or you have to miss a lot of work. Consult an attorney before you negotiate with an insurance company.
Q: What if the driver who caused the accident does not have insurance?
A: Even though your state may require all drivers to carry a certain level of auto insurance, not everyone follows the law. This is why some states require insurance companies to offer drivers uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If your insurance policy has this coverage, then it may compensate you for some or all of your losses.
Q: Are there parties other than the at-fault driver against whom I can take legal action?
A: If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, there may be parties other than the at-fault driver who share responsibility for what happened. If the accident occurred because the other driver was drunk, and a business served alcohol to the visibly intoxicated driver before the accident, your state’s dram shop law may allow you to hold the business liable. Dram shop liability varies from state to state.
If, for example, a defect in one of the motor vehicles caused or worsened the accident, the vehicle manufacturer may be responsible for the injuries that resulted. Or, if a third party like a construction company left debris in the road that contributed to the accident, it could share in the liability. Furthermore, if the owner of the car driven by the at-fault driver negligently allowed the driver to use the car (if the owner knew the driver’s license had been suspended or revoked but still consented to lending the car, for example), the owner may be liable, too.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.