If a person was involved in a car accident caused by someone else’s carelessness or negligence, he or she has the right to be compensated for injuries and property damage.
After a car accident, filing a civil lawsuit is not always necessary but a person can choose to file one. Typically, car accident cases are resolved through a settlement agreement. In this agreement, the injured person accepts an agreed-upon amount of money, and signs a release of liability, essentially agreeing to give up any right to seek further damages.
One way to reach a settlement is to file a car accident claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company. Another is for an injured person to file one under his or her own insurance coverage. There will most likely be some negotiation, however, most car accident injury claims are resolved in this manner, especially those cases in which the injuries are relatively minor and the liability is clear.
When a car accident case cannot be resolved by way of a settlement or a quick injury claim, the injured person needs to go to court and file a personal injury lawsuit. Sometimes this can be done in small claims court. The case will need to go to the “regular” civil court if the amount desired is higher than the state’s small claims limit. In New York Small Claims Court, a person can sue for up to $5000 except in Town and Village Courts where the limit is $3000.
Filing a car accident lawsuit can give a person more leverage in settlement negotiations. A lawsuit shows that a person means business. Few insurance adjusters want to go to trial and have a case end up in the hands of a jury. Juries can be unpredictable.
Another benefit of getting a lawsuit filed is that a person retains the option of having a court hear and decide the case. A case could settle at any time before or after the lawsuit is filed, but if settlement talks stall, as they sometimes do, and the two sides are just too far apart to agree, having a lawsuit filed allows all options to stay open
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, less than five percent of personal injury cases in the U.S. go to trial. The vast majority are settled pretrial.
Personal injury lawsuits following a car accident must be done within a certain amount of time after the incident. Statute of Limitations laws set deadlines for the filing of civil lawsuits. In New York State, a lawsuit must be started within three years from the date of the accident. The New York City Bar Association clarifies that this is the time a person has to sue for personal injury when the potential defendant is not the government. It is also important to note that New York No-Fault insurance requires a claim to be filed within thirty days of the accident.
Hiring a personal injury lawyer is recommended prior to filing an accident claim. People who work with a lawyer increase their chances of receiving fair compensation.