How Do You Know if You Have a Car Accident Case?

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If one single question is more important than all the rest, it’s this: “Do I have a case?”

This is also one of the most challenging questions to answer.

Let me explain.

Every single car accident case is different. The causes are different. The consequences are different. The injuries, the insurance coverage, the way the accident affects the victim’s life – all of these factors are truly unique.

For example, a fender bender caused by a tailgating driver may cause no injuries at all, only property damage. Another rear-impact collision that happens under the same circumstances could instead cause a herniated disc, a soft tissue injury that, despite not appearing on an X-ray, can cause severe pain and loss of function.

Why? Maybe the crash occurred at a higher rate of speed. Perhaps the victim had a prior injury or medical condition that made the spinal discs more vulnerable to damage. The smallest detail can have the biggest effect on the severity of the crash, which plays a crucial role in determining whether or not you have a claim.

The upshot of all this is that only a lawyer who knows the details of your situation can tell you for sure if you have a claim. I know that’s a frustrating response to hear when you just want a simple, straightforward answer, but your situation is simply too complex for an uninformed answer.

What I can tell you is what a lawyer will look for in a car accident situation to determine if you have a claim.

  1. Liability
  2. Damages

Liability in Car Accident Claims

Liability means that someone is legally at fault or responsible for the accident. Generally, to pursue a car accident claim, you must be able to prove that the other party is the one at fault for the collision. If you were the one who caused the crash by violating traffic safety laws, you will not be able to pursue a claim.

Determining fault isn’t always a simple matter. Often, multiple factors contribute to a crash.

  • Sometimes, these factors are no one’s fault. One such factor is weather conditions. Although not their fault, drivers nevertheless have a responsibility to adjust their driving by slowing down, giving themselves extra time to brake, and using more caution as they operate the vehicle in these conditions.

  • At times, more than one driver may be partially at fault for the collision. For example, under New Jersey’s comparative negligence law, you don’t have the grounds for a claim if you are more than 50 percent at fault for the collision. However, you may still be eligible to pursue some compensation if you are determined to share 50 percent – or less – of fault for the crash. If you are partially at fault for the crash, your compensation will be reduced by the amount you are at fault.

Proving liability for the crash requires a thorough investigation. Although the auto insurance company is responsible for investigating the accident and determining fault, the insurer is hardly a neutral party. If the insurer can blame you for the crash, it can decrease your payout or deny your claim completely. That’s why it’s crucial to have an attorney on your side, performing a separate and thorough investigation that won’t unfairly favor the other driver.

When your attorney investigates your accident, they will analyze every detail of the police accident report, photographs, and witness statements. If needed, experts in accident reconstruction will be brought in to answer the most complex questions of why and how the collision occurred. That’s a lot more than you can expect from the insurance company’s in-house investigation.

Damages in a Car Accident Case

The other factor that matters the most in a motor vehicle accident claim is what lawyers refer to as “damages.” Your damages encompass all of the harms that have resulted from your accident.

Types of Damages

There are two types of damages recognized in the legal world: economic and non-economic.

  • Economic damages: any damages you can put a numeric, quantifiable price on. Economic damages include your past medical bills, any future medical expenses you anticipate for your injuries, lost wages for time missed from work and loss of earning capacity, if you can’t return to your job.

  • Non-economic damages: damages that aren’t associated with a straightforward dollar amount, such as your loss of quality of life and the physical and emotional pain and suffering you have been through.

The extent of your damages determines whether you have a case and how much your claim may be worth. Some states only permit car accident victims to sue for what has happened, not what could have happened, so the severity of the injuries you sustained and their impact on your life matters a great deal.

If you walked away from a serious wreck virtually unscathed, you probably can’t pursue a claim, but if you sustained a life-altering injury in a crash with only minor vehicle damage, you still have the right to seek compensation. The thing is, you will likely need an experienced attorney on your side to prove that your injuries really are as significant as you are claiming.

So, do you have a case?

If you believe that the other party is liable for the accident and you have documented injuries – or injuries that you believe are serious enough to see a doctor about – then there is a good chance that you may have a car accident case. Your next move should be to speak to an auto accident lawyer right away.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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