Overview of a Car Accident Lawsuit
An average of about 33,000 people are killed in automobile accidents annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, about 2.3 million people are injured, and oftentimes seriously so, in car accidents each year in the United States.
In the aftermath of a car accident, an injured person may need to pursue legal action. The same holds true for the family of a person who is killed in an automobile accident because of the negligence of someone else. When contemplating taking legal action, it is important for a person to understand the essential elements of a car accident lawsuit, also known as a personal injury lawsuit.
Types of Compensation for Injuries and Damages
In the aftermath of a car accident, an injured person may be entitled to compensation for different types of losses and injuries. An injured person is likely to accumulate what can amount to a considerable amount of medical expenses. These are compensable losses and can be claimed in a lawsuit.
The reality is that an injured person may not only have existing medical expenses, but may continue to incur them in the future. As a consequence, in a personal injury lawsuit, an injured person may claim medical expenses as well.
As a result of injuries in a car accident, a person may not be able to return to work for a period of time. He or she is able to claim lost wages in a lawsuit as well. As is the case with medical expenses, an injured person may claim wages reasonably expected to be lost into the future. For example, a person may face permanent injuries, precluding that individual from going back to the same occupation maintained before the automobile accident.
Pain and suffering can be significant when a person is injured in a car accident. A personal injury lawsuit typically includes a claim for current and future pain and suffering.
Property damage is also a possible claim in a lawsuit brought following a car accident. For example, if an injured person was the owner of a car it by a negligent driver, that loss can be a claim within a lawsuit petition or complaint.
Emotional or psychological injuries may be another type of loss in a lawsuit. These types of injuries are more challenging to pursue successful in a lawsuit. As is the case with other types of injuries, current and future emotional or psychological injuries can be claimed in a lawsuit associated with a car accident.
The Claim Settlement Process with an Insurance Company
Prior to filing a lawsuit, an injured person will be involved in a claims settlement process with an insurance company. An claimant needs to bear in mind that insurance companies are in business to make money. There is a natural inclination to strive to settle claims for the smallest amount possible.
The Statute of Limitations
A person injured in a car accident needs to understand that there is a law in every state called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations establishes a specific deadline by which a car accident lawsuit, or personal injury lawsuit of any time, must be filed.
If an injured person fails to make that deadline, he or she will be forever precluded from pursuing a lawsuit. This is the case even if a person is seriously injured and has major losses.
Filing a Lawsuit
The lawsuit process begins with the filing of a complaint or a petition. In some states, the initial document filed with the court is called a complaint, in other jurisdictions it is called a petition. A qualified attorney is best able to prepare and file an appropriate petition or complaint in a car accident lawsuit.
Retaining Legal Counsel
Car accident lawsuits, as well as all other types of personal injury lawsuits, are complicated legal matters. As a general rule, an injured person is best served by retaining the professional assistance of a personal injury attorney.
The typical personal injury attorney will schedule an initial consultation with an injured person at no cost. As a general practice, a personal injury attorney charges what is known as a contingency fee in a personal injury case.
A contingency fee is one in which an attorney is paid a percentage of any settlement or judgment in a car accident lawsuit. No fee is charged unless a personal injury lawyer obtains a settlement or judgment on behalf of a client.