What Can You Sue For In a Car Accident?

what can you sue for in a car accident

While it’s easy to feel alone after the trauma of a car accident, you’re in good company. About 5 million collisions take place each year, causing over 2.2 million injuries annually.

But what can you sue for in a car accident? Read on to answer the question of whether or not you can file a valid claim.

Financial Damages: What Can You Sue for in a Car Accident?

There are three main types of damages you can sue for after a vehicle collision: financial damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.

Financial damages provide you with compensation for money you lost as a direct consequence of the injury. The most common include:

  • Medical expenses (cost of treatment and hospital stays)
  • Funds to cover surgeries and physical therapy
  • Payment for psychological trauma therapy sessions
  • Money to pay for medications needed because of the injury
  • Future medical costs for ongoing care (home care, assistance from an aide, mobility devices, long-term physical or psychological therapy)
  • Reimbursement for lost wages if you had to take time off work
  • Compensation for benefits lost if you lose your job
  • Money to give you compensation if you can no longer do your job due to temporary or permanent disability

Property damage is another common financial loss that people sue for. In addition to injury-related costs, you may need to repair or replace your vehicle. You can still sue for property damage coverage even if you aren’t injured in the crash.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are those that did not directly cost you money. They’re issues that resulted from the car crash, but they’re not problems that you paid money for. You paid the price of suffering and distress, and you can get compensation for the loss of your previous quality of life.

You can sue for non-economic damages even if you are not physically injured.

Common non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering damages (to cover physical pain and discomfort)
  • Emotional distress such as anxiety, depression, or fear
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Loss of consortium when you can no longer maintain a normal emotional or sexual relationship with your spouse
  • Disfigurement or disability compensation (beyond treatment)

Note that there may be some cross-over between economic and non-economic damages. For example, you can get non-financial damages for the pain and stress of PTSD. You can still get economic damages to cover trauma therapy, too.

Punitive Damages

Most car crashes happen as a result of negligence. The at-fault driver didn’t intend to get into the accident. The injuries were accidental and there was no malice in these cases.

However, in some cases, the defendant’s actions are considered malicious or egregious. This is rare, but if it happens you can sue for punitive damages.

Punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant for egregious behavior. This behavior usually includes intentional misconduct like drunk driving or driving under the influence of drugs. Punitive damages may also be recoverable if the at-fault driver was extremely reckless while driving or even trying to injure people and hit things.

Because punitive damages are intended as a deterrent to penalize the defendant, their need for deterrence is a primary factor in awarding them. The court will consider this as well as their level of misconduct and financial situation.

Comparative Negligence

Most people involved in vehicle crashes will sue an at-fault driver. This is the person who behaved negligently or recklessly and caused the accident.

It’s important to note that Arizona is a comparative negligence state. This means it’s unlikely for one person to be completely at fault for the crash. Instead, each driver will bear a percentage of the blame, and the person with a higher percentage will be deemed at fault.

The percentage of fault will determine how much compensation is owed.

For example, let’s say that you were stopped at a red light. You were slightly over the intersection line, but not much. Another car blows the red light on their side of the road and knocks into your car.

The other driver is inarguably at fault, but you’ll still get slapped with a small percentage for being over the intersection. The fault distribution here may be 95% the other driver and 5% you.

In another case, you may stop too quickly at a red light and get rear-ended. The other driver will probably be at fault for hitting you since they didn’t stop quickly enough. However, you’re going to get a decent percentage of the blame for stopping too fast when you should have slowed down.

A good estimate would be 60% of the blame going to the other driver and 40% to you.

You’ll get more money in the first situation than in the second. You bear a lower percentage of fault, so you get more money in compensation.

Who Can You Sue in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Most people will find themselves suing the at-fault driver after a collision. However, there may be other third parties at fault in some situations. You can recover compensation from them, too.

Employers are a common target for lawsuits if the at-fault driver was driving a company vehicle. This is called the legal principle of vicarious liability. A company can be sued for the behavior of any of its employees when they’re on the clock, acting on behalf of the company, or operating company property.

In some cases, car accidents aren’t even the fault of a driver. They’re the fault of a defective vehicle or bad car parts.

In these cases, both you and the other driver can sue the vehicle manufacturer. You also may be able to sue the person who made the broken, bad parts if they’re aftermarket auto parts.

Hiring a Lawyer: How to Learn What You Can Sue For

After a car crash, it’s only natural that emotions run high. You likely think you deserve full compensation for your injuries or property damage. While this may sometimes be true, you may not have a legal right to funds that cover everything.

An attorney can help you assess the situation in an unemotional and unbiased way. They can tell you what kind of settlement you can hope to reach. They’ll also inform you of precisely what you can sue for in your individual case.

After assessing your situation and police report, an attorney will investigate your case. This process entails:

  • Looking at photos of your injuries
  • Combing through your medical records
  • Looking at injury-related bills that you’ve accumulated
  • Assessing pictures of the accident site
  • Checking out what property damage was present
  • Accessing security camera footage if possible
  • Gathering eyewitness accounts of the accident

They then can put together a strong case for you. You’ll have a clear idea about what percentage of fault each party bears. Your attorney can also give you an educated guess at your settlement amount based on existing evidence and their own past experiences.

Maximizing Compensation

Your Arizona attorney will be the one advocating for you in a court of law. Because of this, you need to make an informed choice regarding who to hire. Ask relevant questions and ensure that you’re a good fit before signing any contracts.

It’s also critical that you work with an attorney who operates under contingency fees. This means that you don’t pay anything unless you win. When your attorney wins your case and recovers compensation, you pay them a pre-determined percentage of the winnings.

This ensures that hiring legal assistance is always worth it.

What you can sue for in a car accident will depend on your attorney’s negotiation of your settlement. Their job is to get the most compensation possible from your insurance company, so you need an attorney who knows what they’re doing. Insurance companies don’t want to shell out, so they’ll take some time negotiating a fair settlement.

Will You Always Get Multiple Types of Compensation?

No, you won’t always get economic or non-economic damages. The exact compensation you recover will depend on your specific scenario.

You’re only going to get financial damages for bills that you can prove you paid. You’ll only get compensation for things that you can prove were a result of the injury. This means you don’t know exactly what you can successfully sue for until you talk with a lawyer.

It’s critical to begin the process of filing a lawsuit quickly after an accident. You don’t want to miss out on funds that you’re due because you put the process off for too long.

Start Filing a Lawsuit the Right Way

So, what can you sue for in a car accident? The answer depends on multiple factors, but you can usually get compensation for injuries and garnished wages. To do this, though, you need to hire an experienced car accident attorney to reach a quality settlement.

Our team is committed to helping those involved in car accidents recover damages after a collision. We operate entirely on contingency and are happy to provide you with a free consultation to determine whether we’re a good fit.

Contact Sweet Lawyers to request a police report and get a free case evaluation today.

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