Car accidents can cause devastating injuries and substantial economic losses, and any driver who experiences a car accident will likely have countless questions about the next best steps toward recovery. Every driver should know what to expect after a car accident, and most drivers in this situation are understandably concerned about their recovery options. It is essential for any driver who has experienced an accident to fully assess his or her damages and identify the party or parties responsible for causing the accident.
Valuing Your Car Accident Claim
In a fault-based state, an injured driver must identify the driver responsible for causing an accident and file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy. As long as the at-fault driver’s policy offers enough coverage to fully cover the injured driver’s damages, the situation ends with the insurance claim. In a no-fault state, injured drivers must file claims against their own auto insurance policies’ personal injury protection coverage. However, depending on the severity of an injured driver’s damages, state laws may allow an injured driver in a no-fault state to take legal action beyond an insurance claim.
An injured driver should record any and all damages resulting from a car accident.
- Medical expenses for the treatment of injuries often form the bulk of a claimant’s economic damages.
- Injured drivers can also file for coverage for property damage, such as vehicle repair or replacement costs.
- An injured driver can claim compensation for pain and suffering. The victim should log his or her pain symptoms following the accident every day and obtain a medical report from his or her physician that clearly outlines the full extent of the victim’s injuries.
Once an injured driver knows the full extent of his or her damages, the injured driver may start the recovery process. Insurance is the first step, but the coverage available may not fully cover the injured driver’s damages. Additionally, the at-fault driver may deny liability or blame the injured driver for causing the accident. In these situations, state negligence laws come into play.
State Negligence Laws and Car Accident Settlements
Most states follow comparative negligence statutes that allow plaintiffs to recover compensation for personal injuries even if those plaintiffs are partially responsible for causing their damages. Under pure comparative negligence law, a plaintiff can still recover compensation even if he or she is 99% at fault for a claimed accident.
Under modified comparative negligence laws, a plaintiff’s fault may not exceed the defendant’s, so if a plaintiff is less than 50% at fault he or she can still recover damages. In any comparative fault state, a partially liable plaintiff loses a percentage of the final settlement or cash award equal to his or her fault percentage. Under contributory negligence laws, any amount of fault on the part of the plaintiff bars recovery, even as little as 1%. Once a plaintiff fully ascertains the scope of his or her total damages, the plaintiff should determine whether he or she bears any fault for the accident and if so, prepare to part with a portion of the claim settlement or lawsuit proceeds to reflect his or her comparative negligence.
Other Possible Damages
While a plaintiff or insurance claimant may have a relatively easy time determining his or her economic losses, intangible losses like pain and suffering are more difficult to ascertain, and state laws may limit noneconomic recovery. When a jury awards pain and suffering compensation they will usually either award a lump sum or per diem compensation based on the severity of the victim’s injuries until he or she reaches maximum medical recovery. Some defendants may also face punitive damages to reflect criminal behavior or egregious negligence, and this can amount to additional compensation for the plaintiff. A car accident attorney can help an injured driver better understand what to expect in terms of pain and suffering compensation.