After the accident.
Immediately after the accident, once all parties are found to be out of harm’s way, and vehicles are not further impacting ongoing traffic patterns, drivers should exchange insurance information. Calling a police officer to the scene will provide a police report that can support fault in the insurance process. Seeking a medical evaluation is also beneficial to document any possible forthcoming negative physical effects on victims originating from the accident. Insurance processes after a car accident will be specific to the insurance laws for the state.
The twelve “no fault” states, where it is unusual for a driver to sue because they can access recovery immediately by utilizing their own insurance, include: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah. In a no fault state, property damage and medical bills can be addressed in accordance with individual auto insurance policies. However, legal action may occur against you if: 1) the damages a victim incurs are higher than what their own insurance can handle, 2) they do not have any insurance, or 3) the claims process is dragged out so they may seek to recover damages from you through legal action before the statute of limitations expires.
In “fault” states, investigations will be undertaken to determine the degree of fault assigned to each driver and the methods of compensation will be based on those outcomes and individual auto insurance policies. Drivers and claims adjusters will negotiate an amount and degree to driver fault. In these cases, a personal injury attorney can help determine percentages of fault and advocate for the lowest percentage of fault on your behalf. If an insurance settlement cannot be determined between you and the other party to the accident, legal action may ensue. Degrees of fault and negligence will need to proven if the case goes to court.
After fault is determined.
The victim in the car accident will need to process claims to repair damages to their vehicle and/or pay for medical or related bills due to care they might receive. These are the economic damages that claims will cover. If a victim claims non-economic damages that impact their future livelihood, referred to as “pain and suffering” then a dollar amount will need to be assigned for insurance settlements in that case.
Criminal action impacts to civil action.
If you caused an accident due to breaking state laws such as driving under the influence, or reckless driving, a civil lawsuit may be placed against you with support from the outcome of the criminal action, subjecting you to fines, suspended license actions, community service or time in jail. These factors all come into play based on the particulars of your case.
Hire an attorney.
When you are at fault in a car accident, it is imperative to know what kind of state laws will apply to you and what the legal time frame is for another driver to seek legal action against you. Consulting with an experienced attorney is always best after an accident so that you are apprised of all possible outcomes and a means to address insurance claims and any legal actions against you.