Auto accidents are a very common occurrence in Utah, which makes familiarity with Utah car accident compensation laws an unfortunate necessity for many drivers. This article discusses what you need to know about Utah car accidents, including what to do after an accident and how to get appropriate compensation for your injuries and losses.
What Should You Do After an Accident?
Here is a list of what to do if you are in an accident:
- Don't leave the scene; leaving the scene of the accident, even if it's minor, could be considered an illegal hit-and-run
- Get to safety out of traffic and check everyone for injuries (and consider providing first aid to any car accident victims)
- Call the Utah highway patrol or the police department for help and medical assistance; you will want to make sure you get a copy of the police or accident report
- Collect contact information and driver's insurance information from the people who were driving any vehicles involved in the accident
- Take pictures of the scene and get the contact information of any witnesses; also, check with nearby businesses or homeowners for a copy of their security camera footage, if applicable
- Call your insurance adjuster and notify them of a possible car accident claim
- Get checked out by a doctor
You can and should consider doing all of this before you think about bringing a personal injury lawsuit.
Utah Car Accident Compensation Laws: At a Glance
In the table below, you'll find a brief overview of Utah's car accident compensation laws, including time limits, limits on damages, and more.
Statute of Limitations
• One year for suits against a county, city, or town (Utah Code § 78B-2-303)
• Two years for wrongful death or personal injury where the State is the defendant (Utah Code § 78B-2-304)
• Three years for personal property damage (Utah Code § 78B-2-305)
• Four years for other personal injuries (Utah Code § 78B-2-307)
Limits on Damages
• $3,000 in medical expenses must first be covered by PIP (Utah Code §31A-22-309)
• $827,000 for one person in any action against a governmental entity, or against an employee whom a governmental entity has a duty to indemnify, and $3,329,100 is the aggregate limit of individual awards that may be awarded in relation to a single occurrence; property damages are capped at $326,000 (Utah Code § R37-4-2)
• Punitive damages in excess of $50,000 must be equally divided with the state (Utah Code § 78B-8-201)
Modified Comparative Negligence (Utah Code § 78B-5-818)
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
A “No-Fault" and “Modified Comparative Fault" Jurisdiction
If you tried to drive on ice without all-wheel drive, you will be thankful that Utah is a "no-fault" jurisdiction. This means that before you can sue anyone else for damages, personal injury protection insurance must cover your injuries unless those injuries include death, dismemberment, permanent disability or impairment, permanent disfigurement, or your medical expenses exceed $3,000.
Under Utah's "modified comparative fault" rule, you can recover damages from any driver more at fault than you. Essentially, the court will decide how much fault to allocate to each driver, and then reduce the amount of damages owed accordingly. For example, if the court found you to be 30% at fault and the other driver 70% at fault, and you suffered $10,000 in damages, the court would award you $7,000 in damages.
Types of Damages Allowed in Utah
If you have been injured in an accident, it can be tough to sort out what you might be able to recover from the party at fault. Generally, you will be able to recover compensatory damages, also known as "actual damages." Punitive damages may also be available in your case depending on the circumstances. While compensatory damages are intended to compensate you for injuries you actually suffered, courts award punitive damages in order to punish the defendant for wrongdoing. In Utah, punitive damages have been awarded to punish insurance companies for denying claims in bad faith and to punish drivers convicted of DUIs in connection with the car accident.
Typical compensatory damages include:
- Lost earning capacity
- Vehicle repairs
- Medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disability
Limits on Damages in Utah
The death of a loved one is overwhelming, but the State of Utah imposes a statute of limitations that requires you to bring any suit for damages for wrongful death within two years of the accident.
All actions must be brought within one year if the driver at fault was working for a county, city, or town government, or two years if the driver at fault was working for the state. Additionally, Utah imposes limitations on government liability based on the consumer price index. As of 2022, the limitations are $827,000 for one person injured in an occurrence involving a governmental entity, or against an employee whom a governmental entity has a duty to indemnify. The aggregate limit for individual awards in relation to a single incidence is $3,329,100, and for property damage, the limit is $326,000.
Fortunately, you have up to three years to file a suit to recover damages for injuries to personal property (such as your car) and four years for injuries to your person (such as a broken leg). If punitive damages are available in your case, the State of Utah permits the court to order the first $50,000 paid to you, however, any amount in excess of $50,000 must be divided equally between you and the state.
Get Legal Help to Better Understand Utah Car Accident Compensation Laws
In most cases, Utah gives injured parties plenty of time to take stock of any damage and recover from injuries before filing a lawsuit. But if the government was responsible for your injuries, making sense of the complicated limits on government liability and sorting out which statute of limitations applies could add more stress to an already difficult time in your life.
Contact an experienced car accident attorney in Utah to get help recovering the damages you're entitled to recover for your injuries.