Q: Can I recover even if the accident was my fault?
A: Whether you can recover if the accident was your fault depends on the laws of your state. Some states do not consider fault with regards to some damages, and in those states some of your economic losses may be paid by your own no-fault policy. Other states consider fault, but you may still be able to recover for your injuries, even if the accident was partially your fault. However, in that case, you may be required to prove that the other party’s fault was greater than yours, or to reduce the amount of your compensation by your percentage of fault.
Q: Who can I sue to recover my damages?
A: In some cases, an accident victim may be able to sue parties other than the at-fault driver. For example, if the at-fault driver did not own the car, the car’s owner may also be liable for your damages. If the at-fault driver was impaired from consuming too much alcohol, you may be able to bring a “dram shop” complaint against a business that served alcohol to the driver even though he was visibly impaired. In some cases, you may be able to bring an action against another party, such as an automobile manufacturer or construction company, if a defect in the vehicle or the roadway caused the accident. If the accident involved a tractor-trailer, the driver’s violation of rules and regulations may be the basis for a lawsuit against the driver or his or her employer.
Q: What is my case worth?
A: The value of a case depends on a variety of factors and cannot be determined without analyzing information regarding the injury, medical bills, loss of income, and permanency of the injury. There is no rule of thumb, and each set of facts results in a different amount of damages.
Q: Will I have to go to court?
A: Not necessarily. Many motor vehicle accident cases are concluded without even filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits are settled without an actual trial. A settlement avoids the costs and delays of a trial and may result in a greater net recovery. However, if the case cannot be settled on satisfactory terms, it may be necessary to go to trial.
Q: Where will the money come from to compensate me?
A: The at-fault party’s insurance typically pays for your damages in many states. If you are in a no-fault state, your own insurance may pay for some of your damages. If the at-fault party is not adequately insured, your own insurance policy may include coverage that will compensate you for your injuries.
Q: How long will it take me to receive my money?
A: The length of time necessary to conclude your automobile accident injury case depends upon a number of factors. For example, if you suffer a serious injury, you will not want to settle your claim until you have received sufficient medical care so that either your physician has released you or your future medical expenses related to the accident can be determined with reasonable certainty. Therefore, the amount of time you need to heal may determine the length of time necessary to conclude your claim. The amount of time before you recover also depends on whether your case is settled or goes to trial.
Q: What should I do if I can’t afford an attorney?
A: Many law firms will agree to pursue a personal injury claim for a contingent fee, which means that the law firm’s fee is subtracted from any amount that the firm collects for you. If no amount is recovered, then the firm receives no fee, but the client is typically responsible for actual expenses, such as court filing fees or witness fees, whether he or she wins or loses.
Q: Do I have to see a doctor?
A: If you are injured in an automobile accident, you should seek medical attention. Whether or not you have a claim, you should be examined by a doctor, both for your own peace of mind and to document the injury to support your claim. Frequently, an automobile accident injury will not be immediately apparent. Whenever symptoms first appear, go to your family doctor, a hospital emergency room, or another medical professional to obtain medical help.
Q: How soon must I bring my claim?
A: Each state sets a time limitation for bringing a personal injury claim. Both the length of that period and the way it is measured in motor vehicle accident cases varies from state to state. Even within a state, the time period may vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, such as the plaintiff’s age, the type of personal injury claim, the particular facts giving rise to the injury, and when the injury is discovered. You must be absolutely certain that you know the time limitation period that applies to you, or you risk jeopardizing your legal rights.
Q: Should I accept a check from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company?
A: Accepting a check may be construed as a settlement that prohibits you from obtaining any additional amounts from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company. Therefore, you should not accept a check or sign a release from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company until after you have conferred with an attorney. Typically, an attorney will encourage you to wait to accept a check until you have completed your medical treatment and have been released by a doctor, so you know you have received an amount that adequately covers your medical bills and other damages. An insurance adjuster may push you to settle the claim for the lowest possible amount and may discourage you from contacting an attorney. If so, you should ignore his or her advice, and consult an attorney immediately before accepting any payment, signing any release, or otherwise settling your claim to insure that you are receiving fair compensation and not jeopardizing your right to a full and fair recovery.