Immediately after a car accident, you may find yourself reeling. What comes next? How can you protect yourself, both medically and financially? When should you sue for compensation for your injuries—and when should you get in touch with a personal injury attorney?
Any time you have questions about your right to compensation, from the compensation you deserve to the timeline for a personal injury claim, get in touch with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Do I Need to Sue After a Car Accident?
Car insurance exists to help protect the victims of car accidents. A moment’s negligence on the road can cause catastrophic accidents with long-term consequences for the victims. Auto insurance cannot undo damage to the vehicles in the accident or repair the injuries suffered by the victim, but it can help cover some of the financial losses experienced by the victim.
Do you need to sue after a car accident?
Did another driver’s negligence, or the negligence of another party, cause your accident?
You can only sue for damages related to your car accident if someone else’s negligence led to the accident. If your negligence caused the accident, whether you chose to drive aggressively, drive while distracted, or speed, you may not have the right to compensation for your injuries. While you might be able to use your insurance policy to cover damages to your vehicle, it may not help provide compensation for other elements of the accident.
On the other hand, if someone else’s negligence caused your accident, you may have the right to sue for compensation.
Most of the time, the other driver can bear liability for the accident, and you will pursue compensation for your injuries through the other driver’s insurance company. However, in some cases, you may find that another party bears full or partial liability.
Suppose, for example, that a mechanical failure caused your accident—perhaps even a mechanical failure with your vehicle. Many smart vehicles, for example, have shown serious problems when road-tested: faulty or malfunctioning sensors or a system that hackers can access to cause the vehicle to behave unpredictably.
Other times, you might have faulty brakes or a steering malfunction that prevents you from safely turning your vehicle. In those cases, the vehicle manufacturer—or a mechanic that recently worked on that part of your vehicle but who caused more damage or failed to repair it properly—may bear liability for the accident. In that case, you might need to sue the vehicle manufacturer or the mechanic for compensation.
Did you suffer injuries in your car accident?
Most often, you will need to sue after a car accident because you suffered severe injuries in the accident. Florida law requires vehicle owners to carry personal injury protection insurance in addition to liability insurance. Personal injury protection insurance helps provide compensation for the immediate medical expenses you may suffer after an accident. If you carry standard Florida personal injury protection coverage, you will have protection that covers up to $10,000 in medical damages, minus any deductibles or coinsurance you might carry.
Once your medical costs exceed the value of that protection, you have the right to sue for compensation through the liable driver’s insurance company. Injuries like traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, or burns may quickly exceed the protection offered by your personal injury protection insurance, which may require you to sue for compensation to provide you with the funds you need to pay those medical bills. However, even the cost of broken bones can rise quickly: for example, surgical treatment for a broken leg may cost more than $17,000.
If you suffered severe injuries in your car accident, you may need to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to assess the extent of your financial losses and protect your right to compensation. Even minor injuries can cause your medical costs to add up fast, so you should consult an attorney to learn more about your rights and how to protect that vital right to sue after an accident.
Has the insurance company refused to pay the compensation you need?
Suppose that you had an accident in which you did not suffer serious injuries, so you may not need to move forward with a personal injury claim. You do, however, have substantial damage to your vehicle. You need to repair your vehicle, and the other driver’s insurance company, due to that driver’s liability, should legally cover the cost.
However, the insurance company refuses to pay.
Perhaps the insurance company attempts to dispute liability, despite clear evidence that its covered driver caused the accident. Perhaps the insurance company gets a low estimate of the cost to repair your vehicle and refuses to issue the actual cost in compensation for your injuries. Whatever the case, you may find yourself struggling with the insurance company to get the compensation you need to fix your vehicle and get on the road again. You could, in those cases, sue for compensation for the damage to your vehicle.
Did you lose a loved one in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence?
Losing a loved one in a car accident can feel extremely traumatic. In the early days after the accident, you might focus mostly on the loss and how it affects your life. However, as time goes on, you might start to notice another substantial challenge created by the loss of your loved one: the cost. Not only do you have your loved one’s final expenses to manage, you have lost your loved one’s income, which means that you may have to figure out how to juggle bills and other financial responsibilities on your own.
Most car insurance policies will include an option to file a wrongful death claim, which will help you sue for compensation for the loss of your loved one. A wrongful death claim can help cover the cost of final medical expenses, provide you with some of the funds your loved one might have contributed to the household’s income, or rebuild your life in the wake of that loss.
Generally, the closest relatives to the deceased have the right to file a wrongful death claim: the spouse has the first right, but if the deceased does not have a spouse, the deceased’s children may have the right to file a claim. If the deceased has neither spouse nor children, the deceased’s parents may file a wrongful death claim. In some cases, the deceased’s estate can also sue for compensation, which may help pay those final bills.
When Should You File Your Claim?
Many people feel that they should move forward with a personal injury claim as soon as possible after an accident. You may, after all, already have medical bills piling up, and you may feel the financial pinch as your injuries prevent you from working or make it difficult for you to bring in any source of income.
However, that does not necessarily mean that you should sue for compensation immediately after a car accident.
When to contact a lawyer
Before you start moving forward with your car accident claim, talk to a lawyer. Ideally, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. While you need not necessarily call a lawyer from the side of the road after the accident, you may want to get in touch quickly to learn more about your rights.
A lawyer can provide a lot of immediate assistance in the aftermath of a car accident. First and foremost, a lawyer can deal with the liable driver’s insurance company. You should not, in general, contact the insurance company after a serious accident before you speak with a lawyer. A lawyer can speak to the insurance company, avoid saying things that hurt your case, and increase the odds that you will recover maximum compensation for your injuries.
Next, when you contact a lawyer soon after the accident, the lawyer can collect evidence related to your accident and your claim much more easily. Frequently, evidence becomes harder to collect as time passes after an accident.
Video footage gets deleted or overwritten. Witness memories fade. The city may repair features around the accident scene, like damaged guardrails, which may make it more difficult to determine exactly what happened. The other driver may even have repaired their vehicle, which could make it more difficult to look at the damage patterns and determine exactly what happened.
The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner that lawyer can start working on your behalf. Contact a lawyer as soon as you can after your accident. Often, a lawyer will even come to you to discuss your claim.
When to file your claim
Once you have retained a lawyer, that lawyer can give you vital advice about when to start moving forward with your claim—and in many cases, it may take longer than you think.
Speed, as a general rule, works in the insurance company’s favor. In cases of clear liability, the insurance company may contact you shortly after the car accident to offer you a settlement. That settlement may sound tempting. The insurance company may even pressure you to accept it. However, that settlement may not reflect the compensation you really deserve or even that you will ultimately need for your injuries. Unfortunately, you may not know it yet.
Many injuries take considerable time to heal—and in the meantime, your medical bills will continue to grow. You may have to pay for more procedures, deal with the cost of physical or occupational therapy, or manage a stay in a long-term care facility.
Some injuries will have a relatively clear progression that will allow your doctors to predict your medical expenses, which can make it easier for you to determine how much compensation you may need to ask for and when it may make sense to move forward with a settlement offer. In other cases, on the other hand, your doctors might not even know what your recovery will look like, including what your eventual medical expenses will amount to, until several months after the accident.
Some people also suffer immense setbacks and unexpected challenges that can increase recovery time—and the associated medical bills. If you file your claim too early, you may miss out on the additional compensation you might deserve for those challenges, and you might find yourself struggling to effectively manage your medical bills. Your attorney may, therefore, recommend that you wait until you have progressed in your recovery to move forward with your car accident claim.
Your attorney may also need time to fully investigate your claim. In the case of many car accidents, especially accidents involving a commercial vehicle, it can take time to fully investigate every aspect of the accident: the driver’s records, the company’s policies, potential recalls on vehicles, and all the factors that contributed to the accident. In some cases, your attorney may need several weeks or months to put together all the information related to your claim.
Did you suffer serious injuries in a car accident? If you have questions about whether you should sue, how to sue for compensation, or how much compensation you might deserve, an experienced car accident lawyer can answer them. Contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible to receive comprehensive legal advice and the answers to many of your claim-specific questions.