If you've been in a collision or auto accident, you probably have many questions, particularly if you've been injured or have property damage. Do you sue the driver or the insurance company?
After seeking medical attention (if needed), exchanging contact information, and getting a police report while at the scene of the accident, your next question may be, “Who do I sue after a car accident?"
Many injured motorists file a car accident claim with the other party's auto insurance company and negotiate from there. However, car accidents can lead to lawsuits if the insurance company is not willing to give you the amount you are entitled. If that becomes the best option for you, here is some helpful information.
Who you should sue after a car crash depends on many factors, which include:
- The liability laws in the state where you live
- Whether the other driver has car insurance
- The type of insurance coverage the other driver carries
Below is a brief overview of your options if you find yourself with damages due to a car accident.
The first order of business is determining the at-fault driver for the car accident. If you are 100 percent at fault, trying to sue the other driver for your own injuries or medical expenses won't be a successful endeavor. A skilled car accident lawyer can help you determine who is at fault for your accident. Secondly, they can help you decide the type of damages you may be entitled to for your car accident injuries based on your percentage of fault, if any.
Damages Depend on Your Percentage of Fault
That leads to the next question: What is the negligence law in your state? Car accident lawsuits are typically based on the theory that the other driver was negligent. With that in mind, state laws differ in how they award damages based on each driver's level of negligence.
Types of Negligence
States follow either a contributory, comparative, or modified comparative negligence model. If you live in a contributory negligence state, for example, even being one percent at fault for the accident can bar or reduce recovery.
If you live in a comparative negligence state, such as Michigan, damages are reduced proportionately to the plaintiff's own negligence.
Other states, such as Ohio, award damages in proportion to the filing party's percentage of negligence. However, if you are found to be 51 percent or more at fault, you are not awarded any damages. This is known as modified comparative negligence.
Negotiating With the Insurance Company
A car accident attorney can provide a free case evaluation by making the initial determination about fault based on your state's negligence laws. The next step is to figure out if the other driver's insurance company has enough insurance coverage to cover your injuries.
Many states have a no-fault insurance option. The insurance company will pay the accident victim's medical bills regardless of which driver caused the accident. Most no-fault states will still allow you to sue the other driver for the repair and replacement of property damage, medical treatment, and loss of income.
If you've made an insurance claim with the other party's insurance company, negotiated extensively with them, and the settlement offer still isn't covering all your expenses, your next step may be to initiate a lawsuit against the other driver.
Suing the At-Fault Driver
If you've already made a claim for economic recovery to the insurance company but haven't received the fair compensation you believe you deserve, your next step is a negligence lawsuit against the driver. You have a legal right to sue the at-fault driver for the personal injuries caused by the crash, including aggravation of pre-existing injuries. A personal injury attorney can provide a free legal consultation to car accident victims regarding a personal injury claim and the likelihood of succeeding in a personal injury lawsuit.
Unless the insurance company has acted in bad faith or deliberately failed to honor a claim that the law requires them to pay out for, most states do not allow you to sue the insurance company directly.
What if the At-Fault Driver Doesn't Have Insurance?
If the other driver doesn't have an insurance policy or is underinsured, you have two options. First, you can attempt to sue the driver personally. Keep in mind: drivers who don't carry insurance may also not have many assets from which to draw to pay for a lawsuit. Hence, even if you win a case against the driver, you may not be able to recover regardless.
Second, you can make a claim with your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist benefits if you have them. One important thing to know is that uninsured motorist coverage cannot exceed the amount of your primary coverage. For example, if you have $150,000 in coverage, you can only have up to $150,000 in uninsured benefits.
Who Do I Sue After a Fatal Car Accident?
Some car accidents may result in serious bodily injury or the death of a loved one. The remaining family members may not be sure where to begin in seeking help for the wrongful death of a loved one. An experienced personal injury attorney can assist family members in pursuing legal action and explain the legal options available to seek full compensation.
Need to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident? Get Legal Help Today
Being injured in a car accident is awful. Dealing with a runaround from insurance companies can make an unpleasant situation even worse. You may need to bring a lawsuit against the driver if you have vehicle damage, medical care expenses, or non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering), and the other parties' insurance company won't pay up. A great first step is to meet with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney near you.
In addition to evaluating your car accident case, a personal injury lawyer can provide legal advice about the statute of limitation, which is the time limit to pursue a personal injury case.