In the U.S., on average, 6 million, car accidents take place every year, and, as a result, half of these people are left injured.
Injuries from car accidents can range from mild whiplash to more serious, life-changing injuries, and even the less dangerous injuries can cause significant disruption and inconvenience to our lives.
If you’ve clicked on this article, we’re guessing that you’ve been involved in a car accident and that you’re either being sued, or you’re attempting to sue the party who was at fault.
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Settlement or lawsuit?
You might be wondering what the difference is between a lawsuit and a settlement.
After an accident, you have the opportunity to consider your options regarding the damages, injuries or expenses incurred.
According to the principles of tort law, if an injury is the result of another party’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation for the damages suffered.
Accident victims have two choices: settle a case, or pursue a lawsuit against the driver responsible for the injuries, which involves suing them.
A settlement is obviously the preferred outcome, and about 95% of personal injury lawsuits will reach a settlement before trial.
So what will escalate the case from a settlement into a lawsuit?
Here are the factors that may cause a case to go to court…
Most Common Reasons for a Car Accident Lawsuit
Not Having Insurance
This is a common situation that sees an accident result in a lawsuit, as without insurance at the time of an accident, a driver has no choice but to sue you to recover costs.
On the other hand, if you have insurance but it doesn’t cover the incurred costs, this can also lead to a lawsuit. Most states have low minimums for liability: $25,000 for property damage and $50,000 for bodily injury.
However, the average bodily injury claim is around $52,900, so insurance coverage may not cover the entire cost. In this instance, the other driver may resort to suing to recover the rest.
Process is Taking Too Long
This is also a relatively common reason for a lawsuit.
Different states have different statutes of limitations - the time period a person has to sue before it’s considered too long. So, if a driver is dragging their feet to respond to a claim, the injured party may choose to file a lawsuit in an attempt to apply pressure to the process.
It’s worth noting that some drivers will sue as a pre-emptive “just in case” - as doing so pauses the statute of limitations. Still, insurance will likely cover the costs.
Fault (Tort) State
Most states have fault or “tort” based laws.
This is when the negligent person in an accident dictates what happens with liability and compensation and drivers can sue one another as they see fit.
If favorable judgment is received against you, they may claim medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and mental and physical pain and suffering from you.
Your insurance covers this up to the policy limits but if your policy is inadequate, the court can demand payment, or dock your wages if you do not come up with the payment.
Determination of Fault
With some accidents, ascertaining fault is easy, but with others, it can be a lot more difficult.
On top of this, different groups may have different judgments of fault, for example, the police may have a different opinion to that of an insurer, and the opinion of the court could differ from this again.
When an accident occurs, a police report is often created at the scene or afterward. The report may go so far as to state who lies at fault, but once a claim is filed, insurers on both sides will usually assign an adjuster to investigate.
To determine fault, witnesses will usually be interviewed, and medical reports or vehicle damage examined. Insurance policies of the drivers involved will also be verified, and the police report may be used in the investigation even if they eventually come to a different conclusion.
How much can someone sue for a car accident?
There is no average amount that can be given as an answer to this question, however, car accident settlements are likely to fall in the region of $14,000 and $28,000. For more severe or permanent injuries, this amount will increase, as well as if the other driver is found to be driving under the influence.
However, as we said, an injury claim may be limited by the other person’s policy maximum, which could see the claim escalated to court.
For example, if someone caused $30,000 in damages in a car accident, but their policy limit is $20,000, the individual may need to be sued in order to reclaim the additional $10,000.
Sometimes this can be done under your own insurance company if you have under-insured motorist coverage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are you still vulnerable to a lawsuit with insurance?
Yes, someone can sue you for a car accident if you have insurance, but it’s likely to make you less vulnerable.
Most personal injury claims end in settlement rather than a lawsuit, however, even if you have insurance, someone may come after you for injuries or damages caused by an accident.
If you have insurance, this is less of a concern, as your liability coverage includes the cost of legal fees, also known as Personal Injury and Property Damage coverage.
In most cases, your insurance will help you out by covering legal fees, however, as we discussed above, inadequate insurance may be one of the reasons why a claim escalates into a lawsuit, where things could get a little trickier.
Every accident is different, and how much someone can sue for a car accident largely depends on how serious the injuries sustained are, as well as their reasons for suing in the first place - for example, if the other driver’s insurance doesn’t cover the costs of the damages incurred.