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Can You Sue for Negligence in a Car Accident?


Many car crashes occur because of drivers’ careless behavior. There are a great number of negligent activities that can lead to accidents. For example, motorists cause collisions by driving distracted, driving drunk, and disobeying traffic laws. Victims of such accidents often question if they may recover compensation from other drivers.

Fortunately, you can sue for negligence in a car accident. However, your ability to file a lawsuit against an at-fault motorist will depend on the laws of the state you are in. Certain states have no-fault car insurance laws that restrict a victim’s ability to bring a case against another driver. Other states follow at-fault car insurance laws where no such restrictions exist. In either case, plaintiffs must prove that their injuries were caused by defendants’ negligent conduct in order for their claims to succeed. Successful plaintiffs will have the opportunity to recover a wide range of economic and non-economic damages related to their injuries.

If you were injured because of a car accident, get help pursuing the financial compensation you deserve. Contact our experienced Baltimore car accident lawyers by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 for a free case review.

Suing for Negligence After a Car Accident in No-Fault States

In no-fault car insurance states, your ability to file a lawsuit against another driver is restricted. Typically, you will seek compensation through your own insurer, regardless of fault. Only under certain circumstances may you step outside of no-fault rules to bring a case against an at-fault driver.

The ability to file claims against other drivers will involve either a monetary threshold or a “serious injury” threshold. Injured parties may only seek compensation from other motorists if they suffered a serious injury or if they incurred a certain amount of medical expenses. Different states will establish varying conditions for when at-fault drivers may be held responsible for accidents they cause.

“Serious Injury” Thresholds to Sue Other Drivers

Some states will use a serious injury threshold to determine when victims of car accidents may bring lawsuits against other drivers. Under a serious injury threshold, an injury must qualify as “serious” under a state’s statutory scheme in order for an at-fault driver to be held responsible for a crash. Different states will set forth varying descriptions regarding which types of injuries will meet this threshold. However, the following are examples of injuries that are typically considered serious by various states’ no-fault laws:

  • Broken bones
  • Permanent injuries
  • Disabling injuries

There are numerous jurisdictions that apply this rule. If you were injured in a state that follows a serious injury threshold, our experienced Maryland car accident lawyers can help determine if your injury will qualify.

Monetary Thresholds to Sue Other Drivers

Other states that follow no-fault car insurance laws will use a monetary threshold to determine when at-fault drivers may be sued. Under a monetary threshold, the medical expenses related to your accident must exceed a certain dollar amount in order to bring a lawsuit against the driver who caused your crash. Different states will apply various thresholds for suing other drivers.

Any medical expenses related to your injury may count toward reaching this threshold. For example, the cost of ambulances, nursing, prescription medication, and physical therapy may all be counted. However, defendants are usually represented by insurance companies who may try to assert that certain treatments were not necessary or did not relate to your injuries. Our car accident lawyers can help deal with insurance companies and ensure that all of your eligible medical expenses will count towards reaching the monetary threshold for suing other drivers in your state.

Many states also include lost wages and potentially other economic damages as part of the damages that can be counted to reach this threshold.

Suing for Property Damage in No-Fault States

Additionally, claims for property damage are typically not governed by states’ no-fault laws. This means that, even in no-fault states, victims can still seek compensation for property damage from other drivers after car accidents. Property damage is typically calculated by the cost of repair or replacement of your vehicle. Our Kent County car accident lawyers can help recover compensation for property damage in your case.

Choice No-Fault States

Lastly, there are three no-fault states which follow unique “choice no-fault” car insurance laws. Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and New Jersey all give drivers an option between choosing between a no-fault or fault-based policy when purchasing insurance. In this system, your ability to file a lawsuit against another driver after a car accident depends on the type of insurance you purchased.

In Kentucky and New Jersey, if a motorist does not intentionally choose one option, they will be entered into a no-fault policy. However, in Pennsylvania, the default system if a fault-based policy.

Choosing an insurance policy in a state that follows choice no-fault rules can be a confusing endeavor. Fortunately, our experienced car accident lawyers can help determine which policy you purchased and evaluate your ability to seek damages from another driver.

Other states might have add-on first-party benefits such as MedPay that work similarly to no-fault insurance.

Suing for Negligence After a Car Accident in At-Fault States

The majority of states follow at-fault insurance laws. In states that follow at-fault car insurance laws, other drivers may always be held liable for collisions they cause. No restrictions exist regarding which victims may file cases against other drivers. If you can prove that another motorist caused or contributed to your accident, you may seek compensation from that driver in a car accident lawsuit. Damages are usually paid by the at-fault drivers insurance company.

However, proving fault in a car accident lawsuit is not always easy. Our experienced car accident lawyers can help fight defendants’ insurance companies to establish fault in your case.

Proving Negligence in a Car Accident Lawsuit

In order for a car accident lawsuit to be successful, a plaintiff must show that their crash was caused by the defendant’s negligent actions. To prove negligence in a car accident lawsuit, the following four elements must be established:

  • The defendant driver owed you a duty of care to act a particular way under the circumstances
  • The defendant breached that duty of care
  • You were injured because of the defendant’s breach of duty
  • You suffered damages because of your injuries

Each of these elements must be established in order to for a car accident lawsuit to succeed. Unfortunately, analyzing them can be difficult. Our experienced Rockville car accident lawyers can help assess the strength of your case by applying these elements to the facts of your case during a free case review.

Evidence Used to Prove Fault in a Car Accident Lawsuit

Plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits must demonstrate that they were injured because of another driver’s negligent actions. There are several forms of evidence that may be used to prove another driver was at fault for your crash. The following are common types of evidence utilized by our experienced car accident lawyers:

Witness Testimony

Witness testimony can be very valuable when proving fault for a car crash. Witnesses can help explain to courts how or why a particular accident occurred. They may provide either oral or written statements that point to the root cause of a collision. For example, a witness may state that another driver caused an accident by running a red light.

Victims should always attempt to retrieve contact information for any witnesses to their accidents. Contact information should include witnesses’ names, addresses, and phone numbers. Our team can provide guidance when reaching out to witnesses for their statements.

Physical Evidence from the Scene

Physical evidence from the scene of a crash is another common type of evidence used to prove that another driver was at fault for an accident. There are numerous forms of physical evidence that may be used. For instance, an opened liquor bottle found in a defendant’s car may be used to show that they were drunk when a collision occurred. You can contact our experienced car accident lawyers for help assessing the weight of physical evidence from the scene in your case.

However, some evidence may be hard to bring into court or otherwise preserve. In such cases, potential plaintiffs may document evidence in other ways.

Photos from the Scene

Photos from the scene of a crash may also be used to prove another driver was at fault. For example, photos showing a crushed vehicle at the scene of a crash may be used to show that another motorist was driving at high speeds when a crash happened.

Photos from the scene can also be used to disprove a defendant’s assertions regarding the cause of a crash. For instance, an at-fault defendant may allege that an accident was actually caused by poor road conditions. In that case, photos from the scene showing adequate road conditions may be used to disprove the defendant’s theory as to how the accident happened.

Victims should always take photos at the scene of an accident if possible. Our team can help evaluate photos from the scene of your accident during a free case review.

Accident Reports

After any injurious accident, a police officer should visit the scene to draft an official accident report. Accident reports are often the first documents analyzed by lawyers and insurance companies when determining fault for a crash. The following information may be provided in an officer’s report:

  • Names and contact information for all drivers involved
  • Statements from drivers involved
  • Statements from witnesses
  • A drawn diagram of a crash
  • Information regarding the property damaged by the crash
  • An officer’s personal notes regarding the cause of a crash

Even though they often cannot be entered into evidence in a court case, accident reports can still be very valuable when building a car accident case. If you were injured because of a car crash, our Towson car accident lawyers can help obtain a copy of your official accident report.

Traffic Camera Footage

Furthermore, traffic camera footage can also be helpful when proving that another driver was responsible for a crash. These surveillance cameras have been set up at many intersections and along highways across the country. Footage from traffic cameras can help prove fault by showing the events that unfolded before, during, and after an accident.

Unfortunately, recovering traffic camera footage can be a frustrating task. Those in control of such evidence may not act cooperatively. You should reach out to our car accident lawyers for help acquiring copies of relevant surveillance footage in your case.

Personal Recollections

Personal recollections can also be used to prove fault in a car accident lawsuit. It can be difficult to remember all of the relevant details surrounding your accident. Any one of these details may be crucial when building your case. Accordingly, you should attempt to record a personal recollection of your crash while your memory is fresh. Your remembrance of an accident can be highly useful to our car accident lawyers when proving another driver was at-fault in your case.

Expert Witness Testimony

Lastly, expert witness testimony can be used to prove fault for many car accidents. Expert witnesses are considered experts because of their training, education, and experience in their respective fields. Such witnesses can be brought in to explain a variety of complex theories regarding the causes of accidents. For example, an engineering expert may be summoned to assert how a defective braking system contributed to a crash. Furthermore, an accident reconstruction expert may be called in to explain how a defendant’s improper lane change led to the accident at issue. Our Aberdeen car accident lawyers can help summon the appropriate expert witnesses to support your claim.

What Damages Can Be Recovered from a Negligent Driver in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

No-fault insurance claimants usually can only recover economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages related to their accidents. However, plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits can recover a wide range of economic and non-economic damages related to their injuries. The following categories of damages may be recovered:

Pain and Suffering

Plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits may recover damages for the physical pain and emotional suffering they endured because of their crashes. Damages for pain and suffering can be hard to quantify. However, the impact these damages have on victims’ lives can be immense.

When calculating damages for pain and suffering, courts will typically look to the impact certain car accident injuries have had on a plaintiff’s life. Many car accident victims suffer injuries that inhibit their abilities to enjoy the same hobbies or activities they did before their collisions. In such cases, plaintiffs may recover compensation for their lost enjoyment of life.

Certain injuries may never fully heal. However, the financial compensation available in car accident lawsuits can go a long way towards getting victims’ lives back on track. The assistance of our car accident lawyers can be very helpful when pursuing monetary damages for pain and suffering in your case.

Medical Expenses

Damages for medical expenses may also be recovered by plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits. Many car accident injuries require expensive, long-term medical care. Accordingly, plaintiffs may recover compensation for all past, current, and future expenses related to their car accident injuries. These damages cover all costs from ambulance rides to surgeries and post-operative treatment.

Damages for medical expenses are typically established through medical records and bills. Accordingly, you should seek prompt medical treatment after an accident. Proper documentation is required in order to obtain financial compensation. Furthermore, defendants and their insurance companies may use a delay in medical treatment to allege that you were not truly hurt. By letting an injury heal on its own, you may inhibit your ability to recover damages for medical expenses in your case. Our car accident lawyers can help find the right doctors for you.

Lost Wages

Additionally, damages for lost wages may also be recovered by plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits. Many car accident injuries force victims to spend time away from their jobs while they recover. Therefore, such victims may receive compensation for any lost income incurred while they were away. Damages for lost wages will usually be calculated using a worker’s average weekly income.

In some cases, car accident victims will be unable to perform the same tasks they could before their crashes because of their injuries. Such victims can recover monetary damages related to their lost future earning capacity. However, proving a lost future earning capacity can be difficult. Expert witness testimony is usually required to establish damages for lost wages in the future. Accordingly, the assistance of our Bel Air car accident lawyers can be very beneficial when pursuing damages for a lost future earning capacity in your lawsuit.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Damages for out-of-pocket expenses are another type of damages that may be awarded in car accident lawsuits. There is a wide range of out-of-pocket expenses victims can incur because of their injuries. For example, a plaintiff may incur out-of-pocket expenses for the cost of travelling to and from their medical appointments. Further, a victim may sustain out-of-pocket expenses for the cost of child care while they recover from their injuries and attend court proceedings.

Out-of-pocket expenses are typically established through financial documents like receipts. Accordingly, you should preserve any receipts for expenses you incur because of your car accident injury.

Property Damages

After most car accidents, victims will incur some degree of damage to their vehicle. Accordingly, damages for property damage may also be sought by plaintiffs in car accident lawsuits. Property damage is generally calculated using the cost of repair or replacement of a vehicle. Our car accident lawyers can help pursue compensation for property damage in your case.

Punitive Damages

Lastly, in rare cases, plaintiffs in car accident cases may recover punitive damages. Punitive damages act to punish grossly negligent defendants and discourage their behavior. For example, punitive damages may be awarded to a plaintiff who was injured because of an accident caused by a drunk driver who was traveling the wrong way down a one-way street. Further, punitive damages may be awarded to a victim who was injured by a motorist who was engaging in drag racing on a public road. Our experienced Bethesda car accident lawyers can help explain whether punitive damages may be awarded in your case during a free case review.

Examples of Negligent Activities that Lead to Car Accidents You Can Sue For

Many car crashes are caused by drivers’ careless and reckless actions. After such accidents, at-fault drivers may be held accountable for the harm they caused. The legal strategies and analyses that apply to a particular case may depend on the cause of the collision at issue. The following are common examples of negligent activities that lead to car accidents you can sue for:

Speeding

Many car accidents are caused by speeding drivers. Speeding drivers will be unable to react in time if they approach a hazard on the roadway or the car in-front of them slows down. Furthermore, collisions that happen at high speeds are more likely to cause catastrophic injuries. If you were injured in an accident caused by a speeding driver, our car accident lawyers can help fight for financial compensation.

Drunk Driving

Drunk drivers will exhibit impaired decision-making abilities, poor vision, and slow reaction times behind the wheel. Accordingly, drunk driving is an inherently dangerous activity that leads to many car crashes. Fortunately, drunk motorists may be held liable for accidents they cause. Victims can reach out to our car accident lawyers for help building a case against a drunk driver.

Improper Lane Changes

Improper lane changes are also a common cause of car accidents. Improper lane changes can occur because a motorist failed to use their turn signals or because they attempted a lane change in an illegal zone. For example, a careless motorist can cause a devastating crash by forgetting to use their turn signals before changing lanes on a highway.

Accidents caused by improper lane changes can cause severely painful and debilitating injuries. Fortunately, victims of such accidents may pursue financial compensation from other drivers through car accident lawsuits.

Distracted Driving

Additionally, many collisions are caused by distracted drivers. There are three forms of distracted driving: visual distraction, manual distraction, and cognitive distraction. Visual distraction involves a driver taking their eyes off the road while manual distraction describes situations where drivers take their hands off the wheel. Cognitive distraction refers to scenarios where a driver takes their attention away from the task of driving. Some activities, such as utilizing a GPS, involve all three forms of distraction. The following are examples of activities that frequently distract motorists:

  • Texting
  • Talking on the phone
  • Talking with other passengers
  • Scrolling through social media
  • Entering information into a GPS
  • Picking music for the stereo
  • Eating or drinking

Our experienced car accident lawyers can help investigate whether your crash was caused by a distracted driver.

Improper Left Turns

Improper left turns are another form of negligence that leads to many car accidents. For example, a driver can cause a serious head-on collision by failing to yield the right-of-way before attempting a left turn at an intersection. Such accidents can lead to devastating injuries. Victims should contact our attorneys for help proving another driver was at-fault for an accident caused by an improper left turn.

Tailgating

Tailgating describes the practice of driving too closely behind the car in-front of you. Tailgating drivers can cause harmful rear-end collisions because they do not have time to slow down when the car in-front of them brakes. Such accidents frequently occur on highways and during periods of high traffic congestion. Fortunately, tailgating drivers can be held responsible for car crashes they cause.

Running Red Lights

Also, many accidents are caused by drivers who run red lights. These accidents often happen during rush hour, when frustrated drivers become impatient and behave erratically.

After such accidents, traffic camera footage is often used to prove which driver was at fault. If you were injured because of an accident caused by a driver who ran a red light, our car accident lawyers can help gather the evidence required to support your lawsuit.

Wrong-Way Driving

Lastly, wrong-way driving is also a common cause of car crashes you can sue for. Wrong-way driving refers to the activity of travelling the wrong way down a one-way street. Wrong-way driving can lead to severe, head-on collisions with oncoming traffic.

Motorists travelling down a one-way street are typically caught off-guard by wrong-way drivers. Accordingly, such collisions are often unavoidable and can cause a great deal of harm. Victims of crashes caused by wrong-way drivers should call our car accident lawyers for help seeking monetary damages in car accident lawsuits.

When to Sue After a Car Accident

Time limits to file certain types of lawsuits are set forth by states’ statutes of limitations. Different states will establish varying statutes of limitations. Failure to file your lawsuit in accordance with your state’s statute of limitations could cause you to forfeit your claim.

However, regardless of your state’s established statute of limitations, you should contact our car accident lawyers as soon as possible after your crash for help filing your case. Crucial evidence required to support your claim may become difficult to collect over time. For example, witnesses can forget important details and physical evidence can become lost. The sooner you attempt to file your case, the easier the task of gathering evidence will be.

Furthermore, there are numerous requirements victims must comply with when filing car accident cases. For instance, plaintiffs must file their lawsuits in the correct court, attach necessary supporting documents, pay court fees, serve all named defendants, and avoid filing a frivolous claim. Those who do not adhere to any of these conditions may be forced to re-file their cases. By filing your lawsuit early, you can afford yourself more time to re-file your case if required.

Dealing with Insurance Companies When Suing for Car Accident Injuries

One of the most frustrating parts of filing a car accident lawsuit involves dealing with insurance companies. Defendants are usually represented by insurance companies who will hire teams of people to dispute various elements of plaintiffs’ claims. The guidance and support of our experienced Bowie car accident lawyers can be very valuable when dealing with insurance companies in your case. The following are examples of ways our attorneys can help:

Proving Fault

Many courts will use a form of comparative negligence when awarding damages in a car accident lawsuit. Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, damages will be awarded using percentages of fault. Accordingly, if a plaintiff was 30% responsible for their accident and a defendant was 70% liable, the defendant must pay for 70% of damages caused by the crash while the plaintiff must account for the remaining 30%. Furthermore, in some states, plaintiffs who are over 50% to blame will be precluded from filing car accident lawsuits.

Accordingly, insurance companies will often try to shift blame for a collision. By shifting blame onto the plaintiff, a defendant’s insurance company can avoid paying the full value of a particular claim. Our experienced car accident lawyers can help ease plaintiffs’ stress by fighting insurance companies to establish that a negligent defendant was at-fault.

Assessing Settlement Offers

In most car accident cases, plaintiffs will be faced with the difficult task of either settling their lawsuit or going to trial. If a settlement agreement is reached, a defendant will pay an agreed-upon amount of monetary damages to a plaintiff in exchange for their case being disregarded. Plaintiffs who settle early can obtain financial compensation more quickly. Furthermore, parties who reach settlement agreements can save on the immense costs associated with going to trial.

Still, not all settlement offers are acceptable. Insurance companies usually want to settle cases for as cheaply as possible. In those cases, victims may consider taking their case to trial. At trial, plaintiffs will have the opportunity to recover additional compensation. However, those who are unsuccessful at trial risk receiving nothing for their injuries. Our car accident lawyers can help determine the true value of your claim, so you can decide if settling your claim or going to trial is the right decision for you.

If You Were Injured Because of a Car Accident, Our Lawyers Can Help

If you were injured because of a car accident, seek guidance and support from our experienced Columbia car accident lawyers by calling Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 for a free case review.