Car Accident Lawsuit

A car accident lawsuit may become necessary if you face significant costs from your injuries and cannot get compensation. A personal injury lawyer specializing in car accidents can help you by negotiating with the insurance company or filing a lawsuit and taking your case to court if needed.

What is a Car Accident Lawsuit?

A car accident lawsuit is a type of personal injury lawsuit that you may choose to file to recover damages after an accident. Legal action is not always necessary in these situations. You may want to file a lawsuit if the insurance company refuses to compensate you or if the amount offered is unfair and inadequate to cover your expenses.

Do I Have to File a Lawsuit to Recover Damages?

Most car accidents do not lead to lawsuits.[1] If someone is at fault in your car accident that resulted in injuries and damages, you can typically get compensation from an insurance company. You may have to work with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or if you are in a no-fault state, with your own.

Even if you need to hire a lawyer to get a fair amount of compensation, filing a lawsuit is not usually necessary. Your lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company or defendant to get you a fair amount. When this fails, you may need to file the lawsuit and even take it to court to let a jury decide on damages.

When Should I File a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Car accident lawsuits fall under the category of personal injury in most cases. Every state has its own laws regarding how these cases proceed, and each sets a time limit on when you can file. Two to four years from the time of the accident is the typical statute of limitations, but a lawyer in your state can tell you how much time you have.

How Do I Prove the Other Driver’s Negligence?

If your situation proceeds to a car accident lawsuit, your legal team will need to prove the other driver was negligent and liable for your damages. There are four specific things that your lawyer must prove about the other driver:[2]

  1. They had a duty to act in a reasonable way, such as following traffic laws.
  2. They breached that duty by doing something like driving under the influence or looking at their phone while driving.
  3. Their breach caused the accident that injured you.
  4. This resulted in damages, expenses related to your injury that you would not otherwise have incurred.

Do I Actually Have a Case?

Many cases of negligent driving are straightforward. It is often easy to show a driver was speeding, had been drinking, or ran a red light. Other cases are more complicated, which is why you need a dedicated personal injury and car accident lawyer. They should offer a free case evaluation to give you an idea of your chances of winning or recovering damages.

What is My Case Worth?

The damages you may be able to recover in a car accident lawsuit depend on many factors. No lawyer, no matter how experienced, can guarantee you an amount. They can, however, give you a reasonable estimate based on the details of your situation:

  • The severity of your injuries
  • The cost of your medical bills
  • The estimated cost of future medical bills
  • Income you have lost because of the accident
  • Degree of disability
  • Disfigurement
  • Emotional and physical pain and suffering

Another factor that contributes to damages totals is state law. Some states reduce jury awards in these cases by the degree to which you are found to be at fault. For instance, if the court finds you to be 20% to blame in the accident, any damages the jury awards can be reduced by 20%. A few states have laws reduce damages to zero if you have any degree of fault.

How to Proceed with a Car Accident Lawsuit

To follow through with a lawsuit after a car accident, you will need to go through several steps. A lawsuit can take a long time, but it may be worthwhile if you are unable to recover adequate damages to pay your expenses.

  1. Find the Right Lawyer
    Legal actions are complicated and require in-depth knowledge and experience. Start the process with a lawyer who can take these steps for you. A personal injury lawyer with extensive experience negotiating and litigating car accident cases is ideally suited to advise you.
  2. Work with the Insurance Company
    A formal complaint, or lawsuit, is not usually the first step in this process. First, your lawyer will try to work with the insurance company or defendant’s lawyers to negotiate a fair amount of compensation.
  3. File a Complaint
    You may choose to proceed with the lawsuit if the defendant is not willing to offer what you believe you deserve. Your lawyer can guide this decision, estimating the strength of your case and damages you could recover if you file a lawsuit.
  4. Investigations and Fact-Finding
    The complaint is the first official step in the lawsuit and notifies the defendant of your claims. Now your lawyers and theirs begin the fact-finding and discovery period, which can take months. Your lawyer will investigate the accident, collect witness accounts, work with experts, and build proof of the other driver’s negligence.
  5. Pre-Trial Settlement
    Even after officially filing the lawsuit, a car accident lawsuit does not have to go to court. Your legal team presents evidence of negligence during settlement negotiations. Many cases are resolved in this state, which saves everyone time and often saves the defendant money.
  6. Going to Trial   
    If you do need to go to trial to recover damages, your lawyer will present evidence, witnesses, and experts while arguing your case before a jury. The jury decides if the other driver is liable for those expenses, and if so, how much they owe you.
  7. Possible Delays
    Ultimately, the purpose of the car accident lawsuit is to recover damages for your related expenses. Even if you win the trial, compensation may be delayed. If an individual owes the money, they may not have it. Your lawyer may take additional legal steps to collect compensation.

    Another potential delay is an appeal. If you win, the defendant can appeal the jury decisions. An appeals court may overturn the decision. Even if it stands, your collection of damages is once again delayed.

Deciding when and if to file a car accident lawsuit can be tricky. It takes time and may not get you the result you want. The best thing to do is consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer to get good advice about how to proceed.

  1. American Bar Association. (2013, March 18). Personal Injury.
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  2. Cornell Law School. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Negligence.
    Retrieved from: