Yes, you may sue if someone hits your car, but filing a lawsuit may not be your only option for seeking compensation. Among other actions, you may file an insurance claim if it provides enough coverage for your losses.
What Types of Car Collisions May I Sue For?You may generally sue when someone else causes a collision which injures you or kills a family member. Most often, a lawsuit is necessary when the collision causes injuries. Car collision types that may cause injury include:
- Rear-end collisions;
- Side-impact, or “T-bone,” collisions;
- Head-on collisions;
- Sideswipe collisions;
- Any other type of collision where someone else struck your vehicle.
How Do I Decide Whether to Sue After a Car Collision?Hiring a qualified and experienced attorney should help you determine whether suing is worthwhile. If filing a lawsuit does make sense for you, then the attorney can handle the legal process from start to finish. Some considerations you may weigh before suing include:
- How severe are your injuries?
- What is the nature of your injury symptoms?
- How long do your doctors expect to be suffering from the injury symptoms?
- What are your economic losses (i.e. past and future medical expenses and lost wages)?
- Do the at-fault parties have resources to pay a judgment (i.e. insurance, employer liability, sufficient personal assets)?
- How much “uninsured” or “underinsured” insurance do you have to cover you for your losses from the collision?
If I Sue, Who Will Be the Defendant in My Case?The details of your case will determine liability, or fault. Your lawyer will evaluate those details and identify the proper defendants for your case. Depending on how your collision happened, liable parties may include:
- A motorist: Motorist negligence or reckless driving are the causes of the majority of motor vehicle collisions.
- An owner: The owner of a vehicle may have limited statutory liability for another driver causing a collision with their vehicle or unlimited liability if the owner was negligent in allowing the driver to use the vehicle (“negligent entrustment”).
- An employer: If the vehicle involved in the collision was owned by the at-fault person’s employer, they will likely be covered by their employer’s insurance. If the vehicle was being used for the employer’s benefit at the time of the collision (i.e. an errand, sales call, etc.), then the employer may be held “vicariously liable,” or responsible to the same extent as the driver.
- A vehicle or component manufacturer: If a product defect (i.e. a defective tire, brakes, etc.) contributed to the cause of the collision, the manufacturer and seller of the defective vehicle or part may be held accountable for your losses.
- Dangerous roadway: A municipality, utility, or private company may be held responsible for causing a collision, and your resulting losses, if they did something to cause the roadway to be dangerous (such as failing to properly maintain it or remove hazards, posting equipment, vehiciles or crews in areas which create hazards for drivers, etc.).
What Damages Can I Seek Compensation For?Recoverable damages are specific to each collision case. A qualified and experienced lawyer will review the evidence and other details to identify and gather and organize information to prove your losses. Your recoverable damages may include:
- Past and future non-economic damages (damages to the person), such as physical pain, mental suffering, physical impairment, grief, anxiety, humiliation, inconvenience, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress;
- Past and future medical or psychological treatment and medication expenses;
- Past and future rehabilitation expenses;
- Replacement/repair of your vehicle;
- The cost of temporary transportation;
- Lost past and future income, earning capacity, and benefits.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Lead My Car Accident Claim?Even though you may represent yourself for your losses after a collision, it is nearly always advised you do not. The old adage, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client” too oftentimes rings true. Hiring a “McDonalds” level lawyer (typically those who advertise on TV) is likewise a foolish move for anyone interested in making a full and fair recovery for their losses. Questions you may ask yourself when considering hiring a lawyer include:
- Do I have any idea what I need to do to prove my case in court against a lawyer who handles these cases all the time?
- Will an insurance company even take me or my claim seriously if I attempt the DIY (“Do it yourself”) approach?
- Do I have the time to deal with an insurance claim or lawsuit?
- Who is best-positioned to be able to work up my case properly, protect my interests, be able to go toe-to-toe (or better) against a well-funded and experienced insurance company lawyer in court and maximize the value of my claim?
What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?In a car collision case, a personal injury lawyer will pursue the compensation you should receive. They will handle most of your case, including investigation of the collision, calculation and workup of your damages, filing of your case, handling discovery, settlement negotiations, and trial if necessary. A lawyer’s primary role is to protect you. They will ensure that insurance companies, lawyers, and defendants in your case leave you alone. Otherwise, these parties might try to manipulate you into unfavorable outcomes.
What Type of Personal Injury Lawyer Should I Hire?There are many personal injury lawyers, and you want to weigh your options before hiring one. When speaking with lawyers, you should consider:
- Focus: Whether the law firm handles car collision cases as a primary practice area;
- Results: Whether the law firm has relevant case results that compare favorably to other law firms;
- Attention: Whether the law firm will assign one of its leading experienced and highly-qualified attorneys to your case or, like most of the TV advertisers, hand you over to an inexperienced and overly-burdened lawyer who treats your case like a number;
- Reputation with Clients: What former clients have to say about the law firm—check the testimonials or request references;
- Activities: Your lawyer’s experience and role in trial lawyer organizations - is he or she a leader or is he or she uninvolved;
- Professional recognition: Your lawyer’s reputation in the field - has he or she been nominated or received awards for his or her work, taught or been invited to speak on topics in the field or been recognized by reputable organizations as highly competent?