July 9, 2020

Who Pays in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Special to California Business Journal.

Determining who pays in a car accident lawsuit is not always easy. Generally, the insurance company of the person who is at fault for the accident will pay for the repairs and damages to the vehicle. They may also pay for the medical bills of the person who experienced injuries because of the accident.

In some cases, car accidents can qualify for personal injury compensation. That can occur if another person caused the accident because of negligent actions. In personal injury-related vehicular accidents, there are a few different potential defendants who may be responsible for providing compensation.

The Automobile Manufacturer

Many car accidents occur because of defects in vehicle manufacturing. The automobile manufacturer is responsible for recalling cars that have problems that can pose a danger to drivers and passengers.

An example of a common recall is a seatbelt mechanism issue. Another common recall is an ignition switch defect. Any accidents that occur because of a missed recall is subject to manufacturer responsibility.

The manufacture may have to pay the accident victim if the court finds the manufacturer neglectful for their failure to recall the vehicle. The company would probably have to pay compensatory damages but not necessarily punitive damages.

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages compensate for financial losses that were a direct result of the auto accident. These funds could cover:

  • Automotive repairs
  • The cost of car rental
  • Vehicle replacement
  • Doctor bills
  • Hospital bills
  • The cost of therapy
  • Lost wages

If you have expenses that are related to the accident, be sure and keep careful documentation so you can prove your damages in court.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are additional funds that the manufacturer might have to pay if the court concludes that they were extremely negligent. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter the manufacturer from making harmful mistakes in the future.

Punitive damages can only be issued if the plaintiff also wins compensatory damages, however. That’s why it’s essential to have representation from an experienced attorney. They can establish your entitlement and then maximize your compensation.

The Other Driver

The other driver may be responsible for your damages. A driver can be responsible for an accident by doing a variety of irresponsible and neglectful things. Many drivers do not obey traffic laws. They become negligent the moment they decide to operate a vehicle in a manner that does not line up with the traffic rules.

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of automobile accidents. Drivers can become distracted by talking on the phone or texting while driving. They can become distracted by interacting with the passengers in a way that takes their focus off the road, as well. Some other common causes of accidents include driving while intoxicated or driving while you’re sleepy.

In cases of drunk driving, the court may find this offensive and highly neglectful. A plaintiff may be entitled to collect compensatory and punitive damages in such a case because of the severity of it.

The Plaintiff

The plaintiff could also be responsible for the accident because of driver infractions or distracted driving. In that case, the plaintiff may still be entitled to collect compensation. Many states have a percentage of fault rule that allows them to receive compensation even if they are partially responsible for the incident.

In percentage of fault cases, to file a lawsuit you must be less than 50% responsible for the accident. The court will adjust the award amount by the plaintiff’s percent of fault. For example, a victim may only receive $70,000 out of a $100,000 award if he or she is 30% responsible for the incident.

If You Are Considering Filing a Lawsuit

It’s wise to contact a reputable personal injury lawyer if you’ve been in a recent car accident. You’ll need to do that regardless of whether you file a car insurance claim because insurance may not be enough to cover your damages and help you recover. Many attorneys offer free consultations to auto accident victims.

Every state has statute of limitations laws that dictate how long after an accident you will have to file a lawsuit. The sooner you file, the better, because once the statute of limitations is up you will no longer be able to pursue compensation.


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