There are many things that simple caution can help a person avoid. Unfortunately, no matter how closely a driver watches the road and drives responsibly, accidents can still occur. These accidents can lead to minor injuries, debilitating injuries, or even death. For the passengers in the vehicle and pedestrians, this can mean large medical bills, short and long term care, loss of employment, and other dramatic lifestyle changes.
According to the U.S. Census, there were roughly 10,000,000 car accidents reported in 2008. Of these accidents, 39,000 resulted in fatalities. In Florida alone, there were almost 3,000 accidents in that year alone. A survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that of the annual motor vehicle accidents, 28% resulted in minor to moderate injuries and 6% resulted in severe injuries.
Many drivers carry auto insurance policies, which can provide coverage for medical expenses and loss of wages in the unfortunate event of an accident. However, when a person’s insurance claim exceeds their policy limits, the remaining fees are paid out of pocket. Legal fees, medical expenses, and vehicle repair costs can quickly eat up an individual’s coverage in a serious accident. When this is likely to occur, many car accident victims seek legal recourse to recover the compensation that they feel is deserved.
Certain states have their own rules regarding lawsuits. Drivers who live in these no-fault states have certain restrictions surrounding their lawsuits and may only sue in situations. This may include a certain threshold in which the expenses and legal fees must be before a lawsuit can be filed. In other states, injuries sustained must be serious enough to sustain a tort claim.
If a person chooses to pursue a lawsuit and have the representation of a car accident attorney, they still have a few more hurdles to overcome. First, a complaint is filed with the local civil court system. Keep in mind that states have certain statutes of limitations, a set limit in which a victim can file after an accident. For example, Florida has a limitation of 4 years after an injury or property damage to file a lawsuit. After that period, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to file a claim.
The person filing a lawsuit and seeking compensation for damages suffered is called a plaintiff. The other party, who caused or had a part in causing the accident, is the defendant. Whether the defendant is maintaining their own legal representation or that of an insurance company, they have a set amount of time to respond to the allegations. They may admit, deny, or seek a counterclaim. With a counterclaim, the defendant is alleging that the plaintiff is partially or completely responsible for their injuries.
Should the defendant choose to deny the claims, there are various arguments that they may present. This includes, but is not limited to, the following assertions:
• There was no negligence
• The plaintiff was the negligent party
• The plaintiff did not sufficiently prove their case
• The sustained injuries are exaggerated or are not compensable
The case can proceed in either a bench or jury trial. In bench trials, the judge determines which laws apply to the situation and which case the evidence best supports. Jury trials are among the most widely known. The judge is still responsible for applying the laws that fit the situation, but the jury decides if the facts support a claim.
If the victim or plaintiff is not being supported by their insurance company, they may choose to hire a car accident attorney. The benefit of an attorney is that many have contingency-based fees. This means that their clients are only charged fees if the case in won or if a favorable settlement is reached. It’s important to note that many cases are settled out of court, since this option can be less expensive and time consuming for the defendant. The settlement is generally a private matter and the details are not released to the public.
Car accident victims should carefully consider their legal options after sustaining injury. This may mean understanding their state’s statute of limitations, traffic laws, and relevant statutes, in addition to maintaining the services of an attorney.