Car accidents can cause immense economic damage. You must deal with the cost of car repairs and medical expenses on top of recovering from a potentially traumatic experience. Seeking compensation for those damages can prove critical to your future financial and economic stability, especially if you have suffered severe injuries.
Do you have the right to sue after a car accident?
Step One: Filing a Claim with the Liable Driver’s Insurance Company
Generally, you will start the legal process for economic compensation after a car accident by filing a claim with the liable driver’s insurance company. You may want to work with a lawyer since the insurance company may not pay out the full compensation you deserve if you try to handle your claim on your own.
You will not technically sue the liable driver’s insurance company. Instead, in most cases, you will file a claim against that driver’s insurance policy. Your claim will lay out the damages you sustained due to the accident and the compensation you expect to recover. Your claim will likely include several vital elements that reflect the economic and non-economic losses you sustained during the accident.
Damage to Your Vehicle
Severe car accidents can lead to substantial vehicle damage. In some cases, you may face such severe damage to your vehicle that you have to replace it. If you have any damage to your car, you may need to have it evaluated by a repair shop certified by the insurance company. The repair shop will let you know about the cost to repair your vehicle, which you can then include as part of your claim to the insurance company.
Your Medical Costs
Your claim will include the cost of the medical expenses you faced due to your accident. Often, that may mean considerable costs for extensive medical treatment, especially if you have suffered severe injuries. Make sure you calculate the full cost of both your current medical bills and your future anticipated medical expenses, especially in the case of severe injuries related to your accident.
Many California drivers carry MedPay insurance on their auto insurance policies. MedPay pays the initial cost of the policyholder’s medical expenses following a serious accident.
Your coverage may vary based on the specific policy you have chosen. California law does not require MedPay insurance, but it can prove incredibly beneficial, especially in the case of severe injuries.
MedPay insurance kicks in immediately, so you do not have to wait for another driver’s insurance company to approve a claim. However, you may only pursue compensation from the other driver for medical costs that exceed your MedPay coverage.
Your Lost Income
Dealing with lost income after an accident can pose immense economic challenges. You may not be able to go back to work because of your injuries, but your bills keep rolling in just like they always have. If you have faced income losses because of your accident, calculate the wages you should have earned and include payment for that income as part of your claim against the insurance company.
Your Pain and Suffering
Many auto accident claims include compensation for the pain and suffering the victim sustained in the accident. Severe injuries cause immense physical pain and may lead to considerable suffering, including the loss of many activities that the victim usually takes for granted or even the loss of relationships or time spent with loved ones.
Can I Sue the Driver Who Caused My Accident?
After a car accident, the driver’s insurance company stands as your first line of compensation for your injuries. Always start with an insurance claim rather than pursuing a lawsuit. However, in some cases, you may need to sue the driver or insurance company.
The Driver Does Not Carry Auto Insurance
Around 16.6 percent of California drivers do not carry auto insurance. An uninsured driver does not have the protection of an insurance company to cover the often substantial damages caused by a serious accident.
When you get into an accident with an uninsured driver, you have two options. First, you may turn to your own auto insurance and your uninsured motorist coverage. If you carry it, uninsured motorist coverage generally provides the same protection that you could expect if you filed a claim against the other driver’s insurance company, which can provide substantial financial support in the aftermath of an accident. In most cases, filing a claim through your insurance company offers your best chance of getting the full compensation you deserve for your injuries.
On the other hand, sometimes, you might not have uninsured motorist coverage. California law does not require drivers to carry it, and some drivers will choose to remove it from their insurance policies to cut down their overall insurance costs. Unfortunately, that means you may not have adequate protection in an accident with an uninsured driver.
In that case, you might choose to pursue compensation by suing the liable driver directly. However, in some cases, you may find that the responsible driver does not have adequate resources to cover the cost of your claim. Talk to a lawyer about your options following an accident with an uninsured driver and your next steps.
The Insurance Company Does Not Provide Reasonable Compensation
In most cases, you can work with a lawyer to get the insurance company to provide reasonable compensation for the injuries you sustained in an accident. However, sometimes, the insurance company may not offer reasonable compensation. Some drivers may carry only minimum liability policies, which may not adequately protect severe injuries from an accident.
In those cases, you may pursue compensation from the liable driver directly. As in cases where the driver does not carry insurance at all, however, you may find that recovering compensation from a driver who does not carry adequate insurance can prove difficult, since the driver may not have substantial assets to provide. You may also need to show significant driver negligence to sue him directly, including acts of gross negligence behind the wheel or clear evidence that the other driver bears full liability for the accident. Talk to a lawyer to learn about your options for maximizing compensation for your car accident injuries, including whether suing the liable driver directly could offer a reasonable solution.
Suing Another Party After a Car Accident
Sometimes, following a serious car accident, you may have the right to sue another party for compensation for your injuries. Many car accidents involve outside parties: people or entities not involved in the accident directly, but who may ultimately share liability for the incident. Working with a car accident lawyer can help you investigate the conditions that led to your accident and better understand who might share liability.
Underage Drunk Drivers
California’s dram shop law holds any facility, including a bar or restaurant, that serves an underage drinker alcohol liable for an accident caused by that facility. This liability does not extend to legal drinkers.
If you have an accident with a driver over 21 who shows clear signs of intoxication, you may pursue compensation from that driver’s insurance company. You probably cannot pursue compensation from the establishment that served that driver alcohol.
On the other hand, suppose that you have had an accident with an intoxicated 18-year-old driver. If that driver received alcohol through a local bar or restaurant, you might have the ability to sue the facility for compensation for your injuries.
Mechanical Problems Caused by Manufacturer Defects
Each year, tens of millions of vehicles across the United States face recalls due to dangerous conditions that could prove hazardous out on the road. These recalls can range significantly in severity, with some endangering the driver and everyone else on the road with them.
If a manufacturing defect causes a serious accident, you may have the right to sue the vehicle manufacturer.
Mechanical Problems Caused by Mechanics
When drivers take their car to a shop, and the mechanic tells them that he has fixed any problems with the vehicle, the average vehicle owner will assume that he can then safely operate his vehicle as normal. Unfortunately, sometimes, mechanics may fail to properly fix the vehicle. Some mechanics may cause problems due to inexperience. Others may ignore the problem cited by the customer or fail to properly test their vehicles.
In other cases, mechanics may cause more damage to the vehicle while taking care of repairs. Unfortunately, that damage often goes hidden until an accident occurs, since the vehicle owner may not suspect anything wrong with the vehicle.
If a mechanic works on a vehicle and certifies it as roadworthy but significant mechanical problems caused or missed by the mechanic result in an accident, you may sue the mechanic.
A driver’s employer may, in many cases, share liability for an accident caused by that driver, particularly when the employer has dangerous policies or procedures that may raise the risk of an accident.
Sometimes, employers may provide vehicles for their employees. If they do not keep those vehicles in proper repair, the employer may share liability for an accident caused by that negligence.
In other cases, employers may have policies that encourage their drivers to behave dangerously on the road: tight deadlines, for example, or pressure to get out on the road despite conditions that should prevent the driver from driving. Furthermore, employers need to carefully monitor their drivers’ records and histories to prevent dangerous drivers from remaining on the road.
When an employer fails in its duty of care to its drivers and others who have to share the road with them, you may have the right to sue the employer directly for compensation. In cases of accidents involving commercial truck drivers, you may want to carefully investigate all elements of the accident to determine whether the employer may bear liability for the accident.
Do You Have the Right to Sue After Your Car Accident?
If you have questions about your rights after a car accident, including whether you may have the right to sue the liable driver or a third party that contributed to your accident, start by contacting a car accident lawyer near you.
A local car accident lawyer can help go over the conditions that may have led to your accident, which may provide you with a better look at who likely bears liability and whether you may have the right to sue. Furthermore, a lawyer can help you put together a comprehensive claim to present to the insurance company that covers the liable driver, or a lawsuit that lays out the compensation you should expect through a lawsuit.