Injured in a collision? Learn what you need to know about your state’s car accident law in order to recover just compensation.
When you are involved in a car accident, there is a lot you need to know, and there is a lot you need to do in order to protect your legal rights. While the insurance companies have an obligation to handle your claim fairly, you have certain obligations as well. If you aren’t careful, you could end up without just compensation—especially if you aren’t intimately familiar with the car accident law in your state.
While many people assume that recovering their losses after a car accident is simply a matter of filing a claim with their insurance company, this is not the case. There are several steps involved; and, as an accident victim, it is on you to pursue your claim to its conclusion. But, you can hire an attorney to help you, and a local attorney who is familiar with your state’s car accident laws will be able to help you collect the compensation you deserve.
Are you entitled to compensation under your state's car accident law? Find out from a local attorney for free:
*When you click the button you will be redirected to LawsuitInfoCenter.com.
FAQS: What You Need to Know about Your State’s Car Accident Law
So, what do you need to know about the law in your state? Here are answers to some frequently-asked questions (FAQs), followed by five key facts about car accident laws and car accident victims’ legal rights.
What Are My Legal Rights After a Car Accident?
As a car accident victim, your legal rights depend on the circumstances involved in your collision. They also depend on the auto insurance laws in your state. For example, if the other driver was at fault, then you may be entitled to full compensation; however, you will also need to figure out if you live in a “no fault” insurance state.
If you do, you may still be entitled to full compensation, but you may also need to be able to prove that you suffered a “significant” or “permanent” injury. If your injuries are not serious, then you may be limited to partial coverage for your medical expenses and lost wages (plus repair or replacement costs for your vehicle).
But, some legal rights apply universally as well. For example, you have the right to have your insurance claim handled in good faith, you have the right to quality medical care, and you have the right to hire an attorney of your choosing. Since attorneys handle car accident insurance claims on a contingency-fee basis, you can hire an attorney at no out-of-pocket cost to you.
What Do I Need to Do to Protect My Legal Rights?
After a car accident, there are three main steps you need to take in order to protect your legal rights. These are: (i) see a doctor promptly, (ii) consult with a local attorney, and (iii) make sure you file your auto insurance claim on time (more on this below). If you don’t see a doctor promptly, you might not be able to prove that you suffered your injuries in your collision; and, if you wait too long to file, the insurance companies may be entitled to deny your claim regardless of whether coverage would otherwise be available.
Why should you hire an attorney? There are several reasons, but the most immediate reasons are that you need your attorney to conduct an investigation, and you avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your legal rights. A local attorney will be able to tell you what to do (and what not to do) in order to protect your rights under your state’s car accident laws.
Do I Need to File a Claim with My Auto Insurance Company?
Yes, almost certainly. If you have “no fault” auto insurance coverage (i.e. MedPay or PIP), then you will need to file a claim with your insurance company in order to secure this coverage. The same is true when it comes to securing coverage under your collision or comprehensive policy. But, even if you have a claim against the other driver (or someone else), you will typically need to file a claim with your insurance company in this scenario as well.
Why? The simple answer is that it is (almost certainly) required under your policy. Insurance companies typically require their policyholders to report all accidents, and failing to do so can potentially provide grounds for terminating or denying coverage.
Can I File a Claim Under the Other Driver’s Insurance Policy?
Maybe. It depends on whether the other driver was at fault in the accident. More specifically, it depends on whether you can prove that the other driver was to blame. Under state car accident laws, filing a claim under another driver’s policy requires proof of fault—and this is one of the main reasons you need to hire an attorney promptly, as we mentioned above.
There are several forms of fault that can justify filing a claim under the other driver’s insurance policy. For example, car accident laws generally allow accident victims to seek compensation for forms of fault including:
- Aggressive or reckless driving (i.e. speeding or tailgating)
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Impaired driving
- Failing to yield
- Running red lights and stop signs
- Merging, lane-changing, and passing errors
- Other common driving mistakes
How Long Do I Have to Seek Compensation for My Car Accident?
The answer to this question depends on the state in which you live. Each state’s car accident law establishes a deadline (or “statute of limitations”) for filing a claim after a vehicle collision.
If you click the link, you will notice that most states give car accident victims at least a couple of years to file a claim. While this is good news if you have not asserted your legal rights promptly, it does not mean that you should wait longer than necessary. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will become to prove your legal rights, and at some point an attorney may not be able to help you recover your losses.
What Do I Need to Prove in Order to Obtain Payment from the Insurance Companies?
In order to obtain payment from the insurance companies, you need to prove two things: (i) your right to compensation, and (ii) how much compensation you are entitled to recover. In terms of your right to compensation, what specifically is required depends on your state’s car accident laws and, potentially, the extent of your injuries.
If you live in a “no fault” car insurance state, then you simply need to prove that you were injured in the accident in order to receive payment under your PIP or MedPay policy. However, in order to seek additional compensation (in most states), you need to prove both (i) that you suffered a significant or permanent injury, and (ii) that the other driver was at fault in the accident. If you do not live in a “no fault” state, then you just need to prove that the other driver was at fault in the collision.
In terms of how much you are entitled to recover, proving your losses requires evidence of your medical needs, your loss of earnings, and your other financial and non-financial losses. One of the most-common mistakes car accident victims make is settling before they know how much they are entitled to recover, and this is a mistake that typically cannot be undone.
What are My Rights if I was Partially at Fault in My Car Accident?
If you were partially at fault in your accident, then your legal rights depend on your state’s car accident law regarding “comparative negligence” or “contributory fault.” Depending on your state’s law (and your percentage of fault), you may be entitled to partial compensation, or you may not be entitled to any compensation at all.
Before you assume that you were partially at fault (or take the insurance company’s word for it), you need to discuss your legal rights with an attorney. There is a lot that can go wrong on the road, and even if you think you were partially at fault, an investigation may reveal otherwise.
What Types of Compensation Can I Recover for My Car Accident?
The types of compensation you can recover also depend on the car accident law in your state. If your state’s law limits you to “no fault” coverage, then you may only be able to secure payment for your medical bills and lost wages (in addition to repair or replacement costs). However, if you have a fault-based claim against the other driver or someone else, then the types of compensation you can seek to recover generally include:
- Current and future medical bills
- Current and future prescription costs
- Other current and future out-of-pocket expenses
- Loss of income and benefits
- Loss of future earnings
- Pain, suffering, and emotional trauma
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship and consortium
- Loss of services, society, and support
What if the Insurance Company Refuses to Pay for My Car Accident?
If an insurance company refuses to pay compensation for your property damage or injuries, your legal rights will depend on why your claim was denied. If the denial was justified, then you may be out of luck. However, if the denial was unjustified (as is often the case), then an attorney will be able to use your state’s car accident law to continue pursuing your claim and help you recover the compensation you deserve.
Additionally, many states have laws that allow car accident victims to secure additional compensation for bad faith insurance practices. If your insurance claim denied your claim when it shouldn’t have, an attorney may be able to help you pursue a bad faith insurance claim as well.
Is There a Limit on How Much I Can Recover for My Injuries?
Here too, the answer depends on where you live. While virtually all car accident victims can seek full compensation for their financial losses, some states cap the amount of compensation that car accident victims can recover for non-financial losses. Many states place caps on punitive damages for car accident claims as well.
Also, as a practical matter, the available compensation after a car accident will depend on the amount of insurance coverage that is available. However, some car accident laws allow victims to seek compensation beyond the available insurance coverage, and this is something you will want to discuss with your attorney if you have been seriously injured.
5 Key Facts about Car Accident Laws and Car Accident Victims’ Legal Rights
1. Car Accident Laws Vary from State to State
From the deadline for filing a claim to the types of compensation that are available, car accident laws vary from state to state. In order to maximize your financial recovery, you will need to hire a local attorney who is familiar with your state’s laws.
2. Protecting Your Legal Rights After a Car Accident Isn’t Easy
After a car accident, protecting your legal rights is not easy. From proving who was at fault to proving how much you are entitled to recover, every step along the way requires experienced legal representation.
3. There are Many Complicated Aspects to State Car Accident Laws
Car accident laws are not nearly as straightforward as many people seem to believe. Filing an insurance claim is just the first step in a long and difficult process, and you need to be able to assert your legal rights effectively in order to recover just compensation.
4. Filing an Auto Insurance Claim Might Not Be Your Only Option
While filing an auto insurance claim is one option, it is not necessarily the only option you have available. Vehicle defects, road defects, and various issues can give rise to claims against other companies as well.
5. An Experienced Attorney Can Help You Assert Your Legal Rights
Regardless of your legal rights, hiring an experienced car accident lawyer is the best way to protect them. You can hire an attorney at no out-of-pocket cost, and you will not have to pay anything at all unless you win.