Most people probably don’t want to imagine being in a traffic accident, but it will likely happen sooner or later. And that’s because the odds are against us from the moment we get behind the wheel. Available data shows the U.S. was home to more than 5.25 million police-reported traffic accidents in 2020. And nearly 39,000 of those accidents resulted in fatalities. Even when individuals are lucky enough to survive a traffic accident, many suffer severe injuries that require hospitalization, leaving them with sky-high medical bills. And this is in addition to the cost of repairing or replacing their damaged vehicle, not to mention the loss of income if they can’t immediately go back to work due to being hospitalized. To help cover these costs, which can be hundreds or thousands of dollars, many enlist the expertise of an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can help them file an auto accident lawsuit.
Filing an Auto Accident Lawsuit in an At-fault vs. A No-fault State
Filing an auto accident lawsuit can vary depending on whether you’re in an at-fault or no-fault state. To appreciate why that is, it helps to know the difference between an at-fault and no-fault state from an insurance standpoint. In a no-fault state, each driver’s personal injury protection insurance coverage pays for their respective medical bills if they are involved in an accident. In at-fault states, on the other hand, the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability coverage pays for the other driver’s medical bills if they are responsible for causing the accident.
In a no-fault state, an attorney may help a client file a lawsuit if they believe that client received a lowball compensation offer from the other driver’s insurance company. They may also file an auto accident lawsuit if the accident resulted in the wrongful death of a family member. In an at-fault state, an attorney can file an auto accident lawsuit on a client’s behalf to help them receive compensation for non-economic and excess economic loss damages.
Seeking Damages Following a Traffic Accident
When it comes to filing an auto accident lawsuit against an at-fault driver in an at-fault state, you can seek more damages than you can in a no-fault state. According to most personal injury attorneys, individuals may be eligible to recover the following damages from an auto accident lawsuit:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disability
- Property damage
- Punitive damages
How To Start an Auto Accident Lawsuit Against an At-fault Driver
So that everyone is on the same page, an auto accident lawsuit is a formal legal action in a civil court system. And it comprises the individual filing the lawsuit and the relevant insurance company’s adjuster. That said, there are five steps involved in filing an auto accident lawsuit, and they include
Filing a complaint – Sometimes referred to as filing a petition, filing a complaint is the first step in getting an auto accident lawsuit underway. For reference, a complaint is an official document describing what happened, the legal basis for bringing the matter before a court of law, and the claimed damages.
Serving the complaint – As the name might suggest, this step involves a plaintiff notifying an insurance company or its adjuster of upcoming legal proceedings. Traditionally, these formal notices contain a copy of the complaint and a summons to appear in court. Generally speaking, a plaintiff has 30 days to serve a complaint.
Awaiting a filed response from the defendant – This part of filing an auto accident lawsuit involves waiting for the insurance company or the adjuster to admit to or deny the allegations made in the complaint.
Discovery – This part of the auto accident lawsuit entails the plaintiff and insurance adjuster exchanging information pertinent to the upcoming trial. During this time, both parties can formally request to review documents and depositions that both will present in court.
Trial – When the auto accident trial gets underway, the plaintiff and the insurance company adjuster will make their opening statements. They will also present any evidence they might have to support or defend their case to the court before cross-examining witnesses and experts as needed and finally making their closing arguments. From there, a jury will deliberate and return a verdict in the case.
All in all, multiple steps are involved in filing an auto accident lawsuit. Hiring the best car crash lawyer possible can significantly improve your chances of winning the case and getting the compensation you deserve.