How long can I wait to see if I have a car accident case or not?
Can I file a car accident lawsuit?
Drivers are required to purchase liability insurance, but there are different types of insurance including no-fault, choice no-fault, tort liability and add-on. Whether or not you have the legal right to file an injury lawsuit in your state or whether your insurance company will pay for the accident, regardless of fault, will depend on your state's laws and your coverage.
What is no-fault insurance?
No-fault car insurance was created to lower the cost of car insurance by eliminating the right of certain drivers to file civil claims in court for minor injuries after a car accident. If you live in a no-fault state and have no-fault car insurance and you are in a car accident, your insurance company, regardless of fault, will compensate you, the policy holder, for your injuries.
Does this mean that you are always denied the ability to file a lawsuit if you live in a no-fault state? No, currently all states allow drivers the right to sue after a car accident, but no-fault states limit your ability unless the damages or injuries reach a certain threshold. For instance, some states have a monetary threshold (i.e. a minimum of $250,000) or a verbal threshold (i.e. injuries are considered serious or have resulted in death) which must be reached to file a car accident claim.
There are twelve states which have some type of no-fault coverage policies in place. These states include Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota and Utah. Three states (Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) are called "choice states" and allow the driver to choose whether or not they want the ability to sue.
If you live in a state with no-fault insurance your right to sue can be significantly compromised. Talk to an injury lawyer or your insurance company if you have questions about your rights.
At-Fault insurance and your right to sue
All the remaining states use a fault-based system, which means the driver who is responsible for the accident will pay damages to the other drivers.
So what do you do if you are injured in a car accident? First, you need get proper medical treatment for your injuries. Next, calculate the true cost of your injuries, wage loss, and pain and suffering. Consider, however, you may need to wait until you have reached your maximum medical improvement to ensure your calculations are correct.
Next, gather all of your information and send it in a demand package to the insurance company of the driver who is responsible for the accident. In your demand package you will need to include evidence of the cost of your injuries, information about how the accident occurred, the consequences (financial and emotional) of the accident, and the amount you expect to receive to compensate you for your injuries and losses.
The insurance company will evaluate your claim. They may decide to accept your offer, they may counter with a lower offer, or they may claim they do not owe you anything. At this point in the process you should expect a give-and-take, back-and-forth negotiation.
If at any point you do not believe you are getting the compensation you deserve you can contact a car accident lawyer. Remember, the insurance adjuster does not work for you, and they are not concerned about protecting your interests.
If you live in an at-fault state you will have the right to file a car accident claim if you do not agree with the insurance company's decision or they refuse to offer a reasonable settlement package.
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