If you have been injured in a car accident and wish to seek damages from the other driver, you must first determine if your claim is valid. There are many factors that can both predict, and affect, the validity of potential claims, and an experienced personal injury attorney can help you identify and pursue those in an efficient and effective manner.
As a rule of thumb, it is vital to contact your insurance company, the police, and if applicable, the department of motor vehicles (DMV) immediately following an accident in which you sustained an injury. State-level rules vary in terms of the time frame within which they allow accident victims to report a crash. If you fail to report your accident within the allotted time, you may severely limit your ability to seek damages for your injuries.
“No-fault” states prohibit accident victims from filing claims against the other party unless their accident-related expenses are above a certain amount. The term no-fault essentially means that insurance companies for each driver will pay the costs associated with an accident to their own clients without the need to prove the other party was at fault. Therefore, if accident-related expenses are below the threshold limit, each party would receive payment from their respective insurance company regardless of who was responsible for causing the accident. To complicate matters, however, no-fault states vary in terms of the circumstances that allow an accident victim to file a claim. Therefore, it is advisable to consult an insurance agent to gain a complete understanding of individual policies as well as state laws pertaining to injury claims.
On the other hand, individuals who reside in “fault” states may have legal recourse against the other driver in the event of an accident, even if the damages exceed the limits of the other driver’s insurance policy. In the event that a driver is under-insured, and the accident victim’s insurance policy does not include coverage against under-insured drivers, the injured party must then consider the option of filing a claim.
Similar in concept to the time limits described above with regard to reporting an accident, there are also time limits for filing a personal injury claim, and these vary by state. Known as statutes of limitations, these time periods dictate the period within which a legal claim can be filed. If an injured person fails to file their claim within the permitted period of time, they lose their right to sue, even if their claim is valid.
Although every personal injury case is different, they all center around two basic issues, liability and damages. In order to have a valid claim, an injured person must prove that they have suffered an injury, be able to demonstrate that the defendant is liable for those injuries and that the effects of the injury can be quantified in terms of money (i.e., damages). In order to prove liability, plaintiffs must prove that the other driver was legally obliged to use care while driving, that he or she violated that duty, and that the accident was directly related to the injuries that were sustained.
This is where a personal injury attorney is essential. Personal injury attorneys can work with you to evaluate the circumstances of your case and determine if he or she believes it is meritorious and worthy of pursuing. Information that your attorney may request to see in order to help determine the validity of your claim might include documentation of your injuries and associated medical treatments, eye witness testimonies, and police reports. If they believe your claim is valid and worthwhile, they can work with you to develop a strong case that details your story and supports it with indisputable evidence.
Doing this with compelling nuance is essential, but difficult, therefore a personal injury attorney should always be in the picture if you file an injury claim; don’t venture into unchartered waters alone. It is important to choose an attorney with expertise in representing car accident victims, and one who has a proven track record of success in securing adequate damages for their clients’ injuries.