If you sustained an injury in a motor vehicle accident caused by someone else, you might wonder if you have a valid case. The answer hinges most on whether you can hold the other party negligent. The best way to find out if you have a case is to contact an experienced car accident attorney immediately after your accident.
You might also wonder if your car accident claim will end up in court. While there’s no way of knowing for sure this early on, most car accident claims settle without either party ever entering a courtroom.
Do You Have a Car Accident Injury Claim?
If you suffered an injury in a car accident or sustained property damage, a car accident lawyer can file an insurance claim seeking compensation for your losses. If someone else caused your accident, your lawyer may file that claim with their insurance company.
Many accident victims wonder if they have a valid car accident claim. It’s best to meet with a seasoned attorney to discuss your case to find out.
However, if you can answer yes to these questions, you likely have a valid claim that a car accident lawyer can help with:
- Were you in a car accident that was likely the fault of another party?
- Did you sustain injuries in the accident?
- Did you receive medical care for your injuries?
How Many Car Accident Cases Go to Court?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) projects that an estimated 42,915 individuals died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5 percent increase from the 38,824 individuals who lost their lives to car accidents from the previous year. Sadly, it’s the highest number of deaths since 2005 and the largest annual percentage increase in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s (FARS) history. This figure also doesn’t represent the hundreds of thousands of injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions that same year.
Motor vehicle accidents are the most common type of personal injury in the United States. The Department of Justice reports that personal injury cases account for about 10 percent of all civil case filings and that only around three percent of civil cases, including those arising from motor vehicle accidents, will end up in litigation. Why do such a small percentage of car accident claims ever go to trial? Because settlements typically offer more benefit than litigation for all parties involved.
Whenever possible, both parties prefer to negotiate a settlement because settling outside of court because of it:
- Saves money. Going to court costs more money than insurance negotiations.
- Saves time. Cases that settle typically resolve sooner than those that go to trial, as they don’t have to wait on the court’s schedule
- Offers more control over the outcome of the case for all parties. Not leaving the outcome up to a judge or jury gives the parties more control over the claim’s resolution.
- Protects reputations. The insurance company or the at-fault party can protect their reputation by avoiding trial (especially true in high-profile cases)
- Allows the injured party to get on with their life. Going to trial can be stressful and, sometimes, might prevent the victim from healing physically and emotionally after a car accident.
Furthermore, civil courts like it when cases settle before trial as it keeps the court system from having to oversee unnecessary cases. It allows the court system to focus on the cases that genuinely need their help.
While it’s statistically unlikely that your car accident claim will go to court, it all depends on how settlement negotiations go. You are the claimant, and you get to determine what you are willing to settle your claim for. It’s up to you if you want to pursue higher compensation through the legal system. However, it’s always best to listen to your attorney’s legal advice.
Most of the time, they know the next best steps in your case based on their own experience and observations. Sometimes they will recommend taking a settlement, holding out for a higher settlement, or proceeding to trial.
Your car accident attorney will know the general value of your injury claim based on:
- Recent similar claims in your area
- The value of your general and special damages
- The insurance companies and coverage involved
- The strengths and weaknesses of your case
- The strengths and weaknesses of the at-fault party’s case
- The attorneys for the at-fault party
What Is Negligence?
Personal injury cases, including those involving motor vehicle accidents, typically have negligence in common. In fact, most of the work involved in such a case goes toward proving the other party was negligent. If you or your car accident lawyer can’t prove the at-fault party’s negligence, your case won’t succeed. Generally, negligence is a failure to exercise proper care toward another person, which a reasonable or prudent person should have exercised in the same or similar circumstances.
When you hire a lawyer after car accident, they will work towards establishing the four elements of negligence in your case. They need to prove these elements, even if your case doesn’t end up going to court.
The four elements of negligence include:
Duty of Care or Standard of Care
You have to establish that the other party had a duty of care toward you. This is often the easiest element to prove, as many laws already show a duty of care in some situations. For example, driving while drinking or running a red light is illegal.
Breach of Duty
Next, you must show that the other party violated that duty of care. If you can establish both duty and breach of duty, you’ve proven liability. In other words, you are showing that the other party is legally responsible for compensating you for your damages.
After you have proven the above elements, you will need to show that the injuries you suffered were the direct result of the other party’s actions. You must establish causation or proximate cause by showing that your injuries came from their actions and not something else. Lawyers often hire expert witnesses, such as physicians, to help support causation.
Finally, you will need to prove that the other party’s conduct caused you actual harm, which translates into a dollar amount. This element is often the most complex and challenging to prove.
For example, your car accident attorney must show the different types of harm you suffered and express that harm in a monetary value known as damages. Proving your damages will likely require medical bills, income loss statements, and additional testimony from expert witnesses who can speak to how your injuries impact your life.
Who is Liable When a Car Accident Occurs?
Securing fair compensation for your injuries involves accurately determining how your car accident happened and who is liable. Often, it’s other drivers who are responsible for car accidents.
Drivers cause accidents in many ways, including:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Distracted driving, such as using a smartphone to text, talk, or message, adjusting the sound system, or setting the GPS
- Driving too fast for road, traffic, or weather conditions
- Failing to maintain their vehicle so that it’s safe
Whatever the driver did or didn’t do to cause the accident and your resulting injuries, they should be held accountable for your damages.
While another driver is usually the first person who comes to mind when it comes to liability for an auto accident, some other parties might also be at fault. For instance, an accident can result if a car part manufacturer or vehicle manufacturer had a defective part, such as a faulty brake system. You can then hold the manufacturer liable.
In other cases, a problem with the street design or faulty traffic lights may cause a crash. You can hold the municipality in charge of the streets or lights liable for the damages from the accident.
A skilled car accident lawyer knows how to investigate your accident to determine cause and liability. They also know how to stand up for your rights and defend you against insurance company attacks.
What an Experienced Accident Attorney Can Do to Help You
A car accident is an unnerving experience. Even a seemingly minor fender-bender can cause you serious injuries and substantial financial hardship. More severe crashes can leave you with life-long disabilities or fatally injure a loved one. Uninsured and hit-and-run accidents can add another element of complexity to already difficult circumstances.
When you hire an experienced car accident attorney, they can:
- Investigate your car accident to develop a case strategy
- Collect significant evidence
- Prepare your claim through meticulous discovery
- Negotiate a settlement with the insurance companies in most cases
- File a lawsuit if they cannot reach an agreement as to the amount of damages you deserve
Reputable lawyers successfully settle most claims for the maximum possible compensation. However, they are also litigation attorneys ready to take cases to trial if they can’t obtain what you deserve through a negotiated settlement.
What Laws Govern Car Accident Cases?
State statutes and court decisions remain the primary source of the law in any legal case arising from an accident or injury. Civil laws can vary from one state to the next and different courts can interpret the law differently. A knowledgeable car accident attorney will know what laws apply to your case.
Should I Get a Lawyer for a Car Accident that Wasn’t My Fault?
If you were involved in a car accident that was not your fault, you especially want to obtain a lawyer. When you hire a car accident attorney to represent you, you don’t have to speak to the other party’s insurance company and run the risk of saying something detrimental to your claim.
Your attorney can determine the causes of your accident and who to hold responsible. Once they identify those liable parties, they can send a formal demand letter to pay for your damages. Suppose they refuse to pay, and your attorney cannot reach a mutually agreed-upon settlement amount. In that case, you can pursue your case in court.
No matter the circumstances of your car accident, hire a well-versed accident attorney to review the details as soon as possible. You may deserve compensation for your resulting damages, possibly without going to court. If your case does require a trial, you want a reputed Denver personal injury law firm‘s lawyer who will do what it takes to convince a jury that you deserve full compensation for your losses.