Across the country, auto accidents are a daily occurrence that can happen anytime. In the case of an auto accident and injuries, car insurance is essential to protect drivers and third parties.
Getting into an accident can have a huge financial impact on your life, including medical bills and damage to your vehicle and other property.
If you were the victim of an accident caused by a negligent driver, you shouldn't pay the cost of any accident-related expenses. Despite this, insurance companies make getting the compensation you deserve for your losses difficult.
Sometimes, insurance companies will deny a claim outright or may not be willing to offer sufficient compensation that will fully cover the cost of medical treatment or damage to your property.
Instead of accepting a lowball settlement, you may have to take legal action against the insurance company. An experienced St. Louis car accident attorney can guide you through the complex legal process, file a lawsuit on your behalf, and recover the compensation you need to move forward.
Determining Negligence in an Auto Accident Case
In car accident cases, recovering compensation usually begins with an insurance claim. Once you've filed the claim, the next step may involve seeking medical treatment or talking to an auto accident lawyer.
The insurance company will investigate the claim and offer a settlement once they've determined:
- That their insured bears legal responsibility for the accident
- How much they believe your injuries and damages are worth
- Whether the accident caused your injuries and losses
The only way to determine whether you can claim compensation is by determining liability for the accident. Once your attorney does so and you decide to pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, your case will typically rely on the concept of negligence to establish that the other party was responsible for the accident.
Negligence stems from the idea that each party owes a duty of care to the other. When someone fails in that duty, leading to an accident, the offending party may be held liable for any resulting injuries. While on the road, all drivers have a legal duty to drive responsibly and obey all traffic laws. You can sue the at-fault driver for negligence when they breach this duty and cause an accident.
If you were in an accident with a negligent driver, you must prove that:
- The other driver owed you a duty of care. Remember that all drivers owe a duty to other road users to drive with a reasonable degree of care.
- The other driver breached this duty by failing to drive with a reasonable degree of care. For example, they were texting while driving or running a red light.
- As a result of this person's negligent actions, you suffered an injury or suffered damages.
Essentially, proving negligence in a personal injury case involves showing that the accident should not have occurred and you would not have suffered damages had it not been for the other driver's actions.
In the personal injury complaint, you may allege and cite physical, emotional, and monetary damages. If you were in an accident where you didn't suffer any injuries or losses, you cannot hold the defendant liable for anything, and you won't have a claim.
Recoverable Damages in a Car Accident Claim
Depending on the specifics of your case, you may be entitled to various types of damages. In a car accident case, you can claim economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are monetary losses that can be numerically quantified and objectively demonstrated in court.
These damages can include:
- Medical expenses, including emergency care, ongoing treatment, medications, and medical equipment
- Lost income and future lost earning capacity if you cannot return to work
- The cost of future medical treatment
- Property damage (vehicle repair or replacement costs)
Non-economic damages are losses that tend to be subjective and not as simple to quantify because they don't have a particular numerical value.
These damages may include payments for:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of enjoyment of activities
In cases where the at-fault driver's behavior was intentional or especially reckless, the court may order them to pay punitive damages as punishment for gross negligence. For example, the court may award punitive damages in cases involving an intoxicated driver or a driver who drove distractedly and was texting at the time of the accident.
Suppose you suffered an injury in a car accident. In that case, it is essential to remember that insurance companies work for a profit and will often offer an insufficient settlement award to cover the cost of medical treatment or property damage.
A skilled car accident lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf and file a lawsuit to recover the maximum value for your case.
Why You Might Sue an Insurance Company
The insurance company's best interest is to settle claims for minimal value. Providing as much information as possible to substantiate your claim can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
In cases involving significant injuries or disputes concerning who was at fault, pursuing a lawsuit against the insurance company may be necessary.
You may also consider filing a lawsuit against an insurance company after an accident if they:
- Are unwilling to settle your claim
- Deny your claim without providing a reasonable explanation
- Fail to settle your case in a timely manner
- Refuse to offer you a fair settlement no matter how serious your injuries and losses were
- Question whether your injuries were from the accident or pre-existing
- Conduct an inadequate investigation
- Delay processing or investigating your claim
- Act in bad faith by, for example, misrepresenting the facts of your case.
- Pay less than the amount they originally agreed to
There are many reasons insurance companies may deny a claim. Before you take legal action, you should seek guidance from a car accident lawyer who can investigate the accident by reviewing necessary documentation, such as police reports, and build a strong case against the insurance company on your behalf.
Once your lawyer files a complaint in court and the insurance company learns your intention to sue, both parties will go through a discovery period. The discovery process involves each side gathering and exchanging evidence, participating in deposition, and other pre-trial activities. To succeed with your lawsuit, you must collect all pertinent records and accident-related documents to prove your case.
Collecting Evidence Against an Insurance Company
When considering suing an insurance company, your lawyer must build a strong case by gathering evidence to support your claims. For example, if your insurance company wrongfully denied your claim, evidence such as medical or auto repair bills can help prove your claim is valid.
Your car accident lawyer might gather and present:
- Any communication and correspondence with the insurance company, including emails, letters, voicemails, and letters. For face-to-face or phone conversations, you should take and keep extensive notes.
- A copy of your policy and the written denial letter. Your lawyer will need to thoroughly review your policy details and the denial letter before moving forward with your case.
- A loss record detailing the number of days you missed work because of the accident. If accident-related injuries render you unable to perform your job, you should take note of that and advise your attorney. It can also help if you write about and record any loss of enjoyment from fun or self-care activities you can no longer participate in without assistance.
- A complete chronicle of your medical history relating to your case
- An expense report that includes all out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident. You should save all your receipts. As you list all expenses you incurred due to the incident, such as lost income or money spent on medical procedures, you should include the date and what you spent.
Discovery is the longest phase of the litigation process. During this process, your lawyer and the lawyer for the insurance company will investigate the facts of your case and review all evidence provided by both parties.
Once discovery concludes, your lawyer will negotiate a settlement or prepare for trial. Even if you file a lawsuit, this doesn't mean that your case will go to trial. Most car accident cases resolve through negotiations before reaching a courtroom. If negotiations are at a stand still, your attorney might suggest you engage in mediation to avoid a trial whenever possible.
Litigating Your Claim
While most cases settle privately, insurance companies occasionally refuse to settle because they are sure they have strong evidence or believe the insurance company will not take your injuries seriously. When you go to court, your attorney can state your case, offer evidence, and examine witnesses.
Until the jury returns with a verdict, you can negotiate a settlement; if the insurance company thinks you may win, they may be more willing to extend a fair offer. The trial length will depend on the number of witnesses and the complexity of issues in the dispute.
Once the jury deliberates, they will render a verdict, and either side can appeal the decision.
Get Help From an Auto Accident Attorney Today
After an accident, you may feel overwhelmed and unable to deal with insurance litigation's unpredictable and complex nature. Attempting to handle your claim alone is a terrible mistake.
The best course of action to obtain full and fair compensation in your car accident case is to hire a knowledgeable and compassionate personal injury lawyer. Let an auto accident attorney work to achieve your desired outcome and get the most out of your case. Consult a skilled St. Louis personal injury lawyer today.