After you have been in an automobile accident, one of your first thoughts is whether you are able to receive compensation for any injuries or damages that you have suffered. Filing a car accident lawsuit after a crash is not something that is automatic. In other words, lawsuits sometimes do not make sense or you may not be able to successfully file a lawsuit. In the wake of an accident, you need to objectively assess your situation to determine whether and when you should file a lawsuit. An attorney will be able to lend their expertise to help you with your decision. Here are some of the considerations and prerequisites for filing a lawsuit.
You Have Suffered an Injury or Damage
In order to file a lawsuit, you need to have a reason to sue. In other words, if you have had a simple fender bender, there may not be any need to file a lawsuit. Similarly, if you have not suffered any physical injury or uncompensated property damage, you have nothing for which to sue. A personal injury lawsuit requires a finding of negligence, and one of the elements of negligence is that you have suffered an injury.
You Are Not at Fault for the Accident
Depending on the state, the degree of responsibility that you bear for the accident may keep you from being able to successfully file a lawsuit. This is also known as the doctrines of contributory or comparative negligence. For example, if you were speeding at the time of the accident, you may not be able to file a lawsuit. In some states, if you are even partially at fault, you may not be able to recover. In other states, the rule is that you are barred from recovery if you are more than 50 percent responsible for the accident. As you will see below, whether or not you are at fault is not always a settled question.
Liability Cannot Satisfactorily Be Determined
The two insurance companies will generally determine who is at fault for the accident. This will be based on the definition of negligence in the state where the accident occurred. Sometimes, the two companies may have some difficulty making the determination. If you are not at fault for the accident, the other driver’s insurance would need to pay for your injuries and damage. However, they may either be dragging your feet or may refuse to admit that the accident was their client’s fault. Remember that you are not their client, and to them, you are a cost as opposed to a customer. In that instance, you may need an attorney to help you attempt to force the insurance company to pay the money that they owe you. Alternatively, if liability for the accident is a close call and you cannot get the other party to admit fault, you will need to get the case into court so a judge or jury can hear the evidence and make a determination.
The Insurance Company Is Offering a Low Settlement
Insurance companies will generally not give you their best offer right off the bat. They do not have any incentive to do so. As long as they are not egregiously lowballing you, they are not breaking any laws. While you do have the ability to negotiate with the insurance company, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get them to pay you what you are rightfully owed. Sometimes, you will need to file a lawsuit as a means of getting the insurance company to give you what you deserve. Once the insurance company knows that you mean business, they may make you a fairer settlement offer. They will incur costs if your case goes to trial that they may want to avoid. Of course, you cannot file a lawsuit solely as a negotiating tactic. You must have a viable case and cannot file a frivolous lawsuit.
You Have Strong Evidence in Your Favor
You would be hard-pressed to file a lawsuit without a strong case. Not only would it be difficult to win, but you would have a hard time finding a lawyer who would want to take your case. The stronger the evidence that you have, the more likely you are to succeed in court. It would be difficult to come into court with weak evidence because you would have very little chance of winning your case. However, if you have a compelling case and cannot reach a settlement agreement, you will have a better chance of getting what you deserve if you go into court.
You Will Have Costs in the Future
If you have significant lost wages or will have medical care costs in the future, the insurance company often has a difficult time valuing those types of claims. Even if they can, they may not want to give you the full value of those types of damages. A jury would probably be fairer when it comes to awarding you the money that you deserve for these things. If your damages are difficult to value, you may not want the insurance company to end up being the party that decides how much you are able to recover.
There Was an Egregious Mistake
Punitive damages are very rare in a personal injury case, but if they are to be assessed, it would be by a jury instead of an insurance company. If the other party did something extremely shocking that caused the accident, there is a slight possibility that you could recover punitive damages. If that is the case, then you will want your case in court, and it is the proper time to file a lawsuit.
Speak With a Car Accident Attorney
The Eichholz Law Firm has years of expertise in helping car accident victims get the money they deserve. We fight to make sure that our clients get full and fair compensation for their injuries and damages. Working with a lawyer is highly recommended when filing a car accident lawsuit as handling a claim on your own may be difficult.
Call us today to set up an initial consultation and to find out how we will fight for you to get the justice and compensation that you deserve.