Is Your Vehicle Accident Worth a Lawsuit? Here’s a Checklist to Find Out
If you’ve been in a car accident, you naturally want compensation for your injuries and damage to your car and personal property. Most individuals don’t have thousands of dollars to pay out if they are at fault in a wreck, which is why we have insurance. But don’t assume that insurance companies have your best interests at heart. In fact, you can assume that they don’t. Insurers are for-profit entities whose top priority is hanging on to their money.
That’s why you need an experienced car accident lawyer as your advocate, whether you go to court or not. Accepting an insurer’s initial offer is a sure way to be low-balled. An attorney will be able to figure out how much your economic and non-economic losses are worth and make sure that’s how much you receive —through either settlement or a lawsuit.
Going to Court Is a Last Resort
Settling a claim is the preferable outcome for everyone. For insurance companies, trials bring the risk of being on the hook for a massive payout and higher attorney and litigation costs. For you, the plaintiff, the decision to file a lawsuit should not be taken lightly. You will not see a penny until the trial is over, and your medical and other bills may be piling up. Your lawyer fees will be higher. Trials and juries are unpredictable — you may lose in the end. And lawsuits can drag on indefinitely, depriving you of the sense of closure you need to move on with your life.
When Should You Consider a Lawsuit?
While settling a car accident claim tends to be better for all sides, sometimes you just can’t come to an agreement over the negotiating table. If your situation meets the following criteria, it may be time to discuss with your lawyer the possibility of filing a lawsuit.
You’ve Been Injured in a Car Accident
If you’ve been hurt in a motor vehicle wreck and another driver is at fault, you deserve to receive compensation from that driver’s insurance company.
You’ve Suffered Economic or Non-Economic Damages
Damages, or compensation, are divided into two main categories in car accident and other personal injury cases. Economic damages include:
- Medical and rehab bills, past, present and future
- Lost earnings due to recovery
- Compensation for diminished earning potential
- Automobile repair bills
- Repair or replacement costs for personal items damaged in the crash (laptop, phone, etc.).
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering — physical, emotional, mental
- Physical disfigurement and impairment
- Development of mental problems like depression or PTSD
- Lowered quality of life.
The Insurance Company Is Not Offering Enough
Any settlement with an insurance company should cover the entirety of your economic and non-economic damages. In most cases, you and the insurer will come to an agreement without a lawsuit's ever being filed. But sometimes, negotiations get bogged down and the insurance company refuses to offer what your lawyer thinks your case is worth. At that point, it’s time to consider the next step of taking it to court.
What if You Live in a No-Fault State?
Filing an insurance claim in a no-fault state is much simpler than in states with fault-based insurance systems. Who is responsible for the accident is irrelevant. You file your claim with your own insurance company, and they pay damages for the cost of your repairs and injuries. This streamlined process means claims are processed faster and more efficiently.
The downside to no-fault insurance is that you will not be reimbursed for pain and suffering, or non-economic losses.
The details vary by state, but generally no-fault states do allow you to sue the other driver if damages reach a certain threshold: either your expenses are higher than a certain dollar amount or your injuries are considered “serious” (as defined by the state).
When you’re involved in a motor vehicle collision, don’t accept the first settlement offer that comes along. If you’ve been injured in a crash, call a car accident lawyer to be your advocate during negotiations and in the courtroom.