FAQs: When Can You Seek Compensation for a Car Accident?
You were injured in a car accident. Can you seek compensation for your injuries? Here’s what you need to know.
When can you seek compensation for a car accident? For many people, this is an extremely important question. The costs of a car accident can add up quickly, and this means that securing compensation can be critical.
If you have been involved in a car accident, the costs can extend far beyond your repair costs. If you were injured, you will quickly rack of medical bills; and, if your injury puts you out of work, you could fall behind on your other bills as well. Then, there are the non-financial effects of your injuries: pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of consortium—these are all “costs” of your car accident.
When Can You Seek Compensation for a Car Accident?
In order to understand when you can seek compensation for a car accident, it is first necessary to understand your state’s auto insurance laws. Different states have different requirements, and most drivers only purchase the minimum insurance that is required. While you should not assume that the other driver only has minimal coverage, you need to have a clear and realistic understanding of the compensation that may be available to you.
1. Understanding Fault vs. No-Fault Car Accident Compensation
State auto insurance laws fall into two main categories: (i) those that require fault-based auto insurance (or “liability” insurance), and (ii) those that require “no fault” insurance coverage.
If you live in a “fault” state, then you can seek compensation under the other driver’s policy if the other driver is to blame for your injuries. As we discuss below, there are numerous potential grounds for seeking fault-based compensation after a collision.
If you live in a “no fault” state, then your first source of compensation will be your own insurance policy, but you may still be able to pursue a fault-based claim as well.
Fault-based insurance—also known as bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance—is coverage that a driver buys to cover other drivers’ and passengers’ costs if the driver is responsible for causing a collision. For example, if you are hit by a distracted driver who has BIL coverage, then you may be able to seek compensation under the distracted driver’s BIL policy.
No-fault insurance—also known as personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay) coverage—is insurance that you buy to cover your own costs in the event that you are injured in a car accident. The drawbacks to no-fault insurance are that (i) policy limits are usually relatively low, and (ii) these policies only cover medical bills and lost wages—not other types of accident-related losses.
2. Common Grounds for Seeking Fault-Based Compensation
In order seek fault-based compensation for a car accident, you need to have proof that the other driver is to blame for your car accident. Due to the challenges involved with collecting evidence and proving liability, it is important to hire an attorney to help with your BIL insurance claim. Generally speaking, however, the types of fault that can entitle you to seek compensation for your car accident include:
- Aggressive driving
- Distracted driving
- Reckless driving
- Failing to yield
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Dosing off or falling asleep behind the wheel
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
- Driving under the influence of a prescription medication
- Driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs
- Driving a dangerous vehicle
- Failing to maintain control of a “self-driving” vehicle
This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a sampling of some of the most-common causes of serious car accidents. If you contact a lawyer, he or she will be able to tell you if the circumstances involved in your accident entitle you to seek a fault-based financial recovery.
3. Auto Accident Claims vs. “Third Party” Claims in Car Accidents
When it comes to seeking compensation for a car accident, it is also important to realize that filing an auto insurance claim might not be your only option. You may also have a “third party” claim.
A “third party” claim is a claim against anyone other than the other driver involved in your accident. Some examples of third parties that can be held liable for car accident compensation include:
- The other driver’s employer
- Your car’s manufacturer (or the other vehicle’s manufacturer)
- A dealership, maintenance shop, or repair shop that worked on your car or the other driver’s vehicle
- The government agency responsible for constructing or maintaining the road where your car accident occurred
- A bar, restaurant, or other establishment that overserved the other driver (in the case of a drunk driving accident)
If you have a third party claim, then your state’s auto insurance law is not particularly relevant (although you may still be able to file a claim under your PIP or MedPay policy, if you have one). You can seek full compensation from the third party that is liable for your injuries, and you will need to work with an experienced attorney to accurately calculate your accident-related losses.
Additional FAQs Related to Recovering Your Losses After a Car Accident
How Does Car Accident Compensation Work?
The way car accident compensation works depends on the type of claim (or types of claims) you have. If you have a no-fault insurance claim, then you should be able to secure coverage regardless of the circumstances involved in your accident. However, insurance companies regularly make it a challenge to secure full PIP or MedPay coverage, and you may still find it beneficial to hire a lawyer to represent you.
If you have a fault-based auto insurance claim, then you will need to prove fault in order to recover compensation for your car accident. This is not easy, and it is not something you should try to do on your own. It is also not something you can expect the insurance companies to do for you. If you have a claim for fault-based car accident compensation, it will be up to you to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
How is Compensation for a Car Accident Calculated?
Compensation for a car accident is calculated based upon your actual losses. The term “compensation” means that the money you receive is supposed to replace what you have lost (or, importantly, what you will lose in the future. For an in-depth discussion of how car accident compensation is calculated, you can read our FAQs: How Much Can You Recover for Your Car Accident?
What Do You Need to Do in Order to Get Car Accident Compensation?
In order to get compensation for your car accident, you will need to file an insurance claim. If you have a “third party” claim, then you will need to hire a lawyer to file this claim on your behalf. Additionally, even if you are limited to auto insurance coverage (no-fault, fault, or both), it will still be in your best interests to hire an experienced car accident lawyer to represent you.
Beyond filing an insurance claim and hiring an attorney for car accidents, there are several additional steps you will need to take in order to get compensation for your car accident as well. Our step-by-step Guides are designed to help you get started with your car accident claim.
Can You Seek Compensation if You Were Partially At Fault in Your Car Accident?
Another question people commonly have about seeking compensation for a car accident is whether they can seek compensation if they were partially in fault. In the vast majority of states, the answer is, “Yes,” with some qualifications.
Some states allow car accident victims to recover a portion of their losses regardless of their percentage of fault, while others only allow victims to recover if they are less than 50% or 51% liable. A handful of states bar car accident compensation claims when a victim is even 1% to blame for his or her own injuries. You can use our 50-state guide to find out whether you can seek compensation if you were partially at fault in your accident.
Do Car Accident Claims Expire?
Yes, car accident claims do expire, and this is another important factor to consider when it comes to determining whether you can seek compensation for your car accident. If you wait too long, you will not be able to get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills and other losses. This is yet another reason to hire a lawyer to help with your car accident claim.
Car accident claim deadlines vary by state. You can use our guide to car accident claim deadlines in all 50 states to find out when your claim expires.