“Should I file a lawsuit after a car crash?”
So you’ve been in an accident and you’re wondering if you can sue someone to pay for all the bills related to the accident. Many people wonder if they are able to file a lawsuit after a car crash so you are not alone. The answer depends on where you live and what happened in the accident.
Whose fault was the car accident?
This is the main question that needs to be answered. Not only who caused the accident, but are they responsible entirely or partially? This is where comparative and contributory negligence come into play.
Comparative and Contributory Negligence
Contributory negligence and comparative negligence are concepts used to attribute fault after a motor vehicle accident. As the table below shows, different states use different methods to determine fault.
|Alabama||Pure Contributory Negligence|
|Alaska||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Arizona||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Arkansas||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|California||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Colorado||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Connecticut||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Delaware||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|District of Columbia||Pure Contributory Negligence|
|Florida||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Georgia||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Hawaii||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Idaho||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Illinois||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Indiana||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Iowa||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Kansas||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Kentucky||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Louisiana||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Maine||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Maryland||Pure Contributory Negligence|
|Massachusetts||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Michigan||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Minnesota||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Mississippi||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Missouri||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Montana||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Nebraska||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Nevada||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|New Hampshire||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|New Jersey||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|New Mexico||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|New York||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|North Carolina||Pure Contributory Negligence|
|North Dakota||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Ohio||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Oklahoma||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Oregon||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Pennsylvania||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Rhode Island||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|South Carolina||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|South Dakota||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|Tennessee||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Texas||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Utah||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Vermont||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Virginia||Pure Contributory Negligence|
|Washington||Pure Comparative Negligence|
|West Virginia||Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule|
|Wisconsin||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
|Wyoming||Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule|
Contributory negligence: Every person driving on the streets and highways has a responsibility to act as “reasonable person” while operating a motor vehicle, be it a car, truck, motorcycle, bus or anything else. If a driver does not act as a reasonable person, they may be held entirely at fault or partially at fault for any damages or injury that occurred as the result of their actions (or inactions). For example if a driver is texting while driving, swerves and hits another driver who is driving in the lane next to them who is driving 15 miles over the speed limit, who would be found at fault? In this event, if the person who was speeding (and was crashed into by the person texting and driving) filed a lawsuit, the person who was texting and driving could bring a counter-claim against alleging that the other party was partly at fault because they were speeding. This would be an example of a “contributory negligence” counterclaim. If they were able to prove this, then the plaintiff could prevent the defendant from recovering damages or could reduce the amount of damages.
Comparative Negligence: Most states use a comparative negligence system when it comes to car accident lawsuits. There are two approaches in place:
- Pure Comparative Negligence
- Modified Comparative Negligence
In pure comparative negligence, damages are totaled and then reduced to match the amount of contribution to the accident. For example if a person is found 20% at fault for an accident and the amount awarded was $200,000, that person would be awarded $160,000 (80% of the total amount).
In modified comparative negligence, the person filing the lawsuit (the plaintiff) would not recover anything if they are found to be equally responsible or more responsible than the other party. Meaning if they shared the fault equally (50/50) they would not be allowed to recover anything.
Should you file a claim and how much money can you get?
Now that you understand comparative and contributory negligence (or at least a little better than you did before) and by seeing how your state deals with determining fault, this should help you figure out if you can file a claim. If so, you need to find a car accident lawyer (aka a personal injury attorney) who is experienced and has a past history of results winning car accident claims. Automobile accident lawyers handle all cases on a contingency fee basis, so you won’t have to pay until they recover money on your behalf. Is it worth it to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit after a car accident? That depends on many circumstances but if there were serious injuries involved you should absolutely seek the help of a lawyer. A lawyer may be able to help you get money for:
- Repair costs for damage to your vehicle
- Medical bills such as doctors and hospital costs related to your accident
- Physical therapy
- Loss of wages as a result of missed time from work
- How your future income earning potential is effected
- Pain and suffering
As a layperson, you have absolutely no idea what your case is worth which is why you need an accident attorney who has extensive experience to help you with your case. You may think that the insurance company is on your side and they will be fair but that is rarely the case. Their obligation to their shareholders and profitability are the reason they want to pay you as little as possible for your accident. We know hundreds of stories of the insurance company offering a tiny settlement and a good lawyer is able to turn an offer of a few thousand dollars (or no offer at all) into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Other questions commonly asked if you are considering suing for a car crash
How many people die each year in car accidents?
Although the numbers have greatly declined over the years, there are still over 30,000 people who die in car accidents each year.
How much can you sue for after a car accident?
This will depend on the amount of damages and injuries sustained after the accident. More serious injuries that require lots of medical bills will usually mean more damages can be recovered. If you just had property damage then you will not be able to recover any money for injuries if there are none.
I was in a car accident, do i need a lawyer?
Maybe. If the accident is minor and there are no injuries you may be able to settle the claim without an attorney. However, if you want to file a personal injury lawsuit, in most cases it is wise to have an attorney representing you so the insurance company does not take advantage of you.
I was in a car accident, what should i do?
Obviously if you have been injured, you should get the medical care you need fist. Your health is your first priority. If you are considering legal action, you will need proof of medical treatment to document your injuries. Without documentation of medical treatment, you will have a very hard time recovering any money if there is nothing to prove your injuries. You should also speak to a lawyer to explain your situation. Car accident lawyers offer free consultations so there is no cost or obligation to speak a a car crash attorney. If the accident is minor and you were not injured, speak to your insurance company (never the other sides insurance company without an attorney). If they give you the runaround and your claim is legitimate, speak a a lawyer.
What can i sue for in small claims court?
This depends on where you live. Small claims courts have different caps for the amount that you want to sue for. Check with your local small claims court to find out what the details are in the courts that you would end up filing in.
Can someone sue you for a car accident?
Definitely, especially if you are at fault for the accident. Hopefully you have car insurance. After all, that is what insurance is for!
Can someone sue you for a car accident if you have insurance?
Yes they can, but that is the reason you have insurance, for situations like this. Some insurance companies will say that your insurance lapsed if you missed payment though so always make sure to pay your insurance on time.
Can someone sue you for a car accident without police report?
Yes, you can be sued for a car accident even if there is no police report. If you reported the accident to your insurance company though they will defend you. If you have not reported it to your insurance company, you should.
How long after a car accident can you sue?
This depends on the statute of limitations in your state. Usually, it’s between 1 and 2 years.