Automobile accidents are accidents which involve motor vehicles and may vary greatly by number of vehicles involved as well as the type of vehicle involved. As difficult as it may be for an individual to deal with an automobile accident, they will still be required to deal with the legal and technical issues which arise.

In addition, dealing with the costs of injuries and damage to a vehicle is an additional burden. In certain cases, insurance may not cover all of the costs.

In fact, there are numerous lawsuits which arise related to disputes involving insurance companies. Even if an individual has a comprehensive insurance policy in place, it may still be necessary for an individual to file a lawsuit in connection with an accident.

The damages which may be awarded in an automobile accident lawsuit may assist with covering various costs associated with the accident. There are some steps individuals can take to help them prepare for a car accident claim:

  • Review their coverage plan: Some legal disputes and conflicts stem from a lack of understanding when it comes to the terms in a plan or contract;
  • Always have an accident readiness kit in the car: This may include forms for the drivers involved to complete as well as a small disposable camera. An individual can also take photos/ or videos from a phone camera if they have one;
  • Keep copies of injury costs and repair statements: An individual may need these as evidence in a court of law if they decide to file suit; and
  • Understand the laws: Each state has its own injury claim laws. The limits on damages awarded may be drastically different in each jurisdiction.

Although no one expects to be involved in a car accident, it is always best to be prepared before one occurs. That way, an individual can relieve some of the burden of the already stressful experience.

What are Traffic Accident Lawsuits?

A traffic accident lawsuit is typically filed in order for an injured individual to recover damages for their injuries which were caused by an automobile accident. The term traffic accident is a broad term which may apply to accidents that occur on any roadway, including:

  • Highways;
  • Side streets;
  • Residential areas; and
  • Parking lots.

Traffic accidents may involve numerous different types of vehicles, for example:

  • Passenger automobiles;
  • Large trucks;
  • Motorcycles;
  • Bicycles; and
  • Pedestrians.

The majority of traffic accident lawsuits are based upon the legal theory of negligence. Some claims may overlap with criminal law, for example, misdemeanor or felony DUI charges.

What Type of Damages Can I Recover in an Auto Accident Lawsuit?

There are two major categories of damages which may be recovered in automobile accident lawsuits. These categories of damages are compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages are monetary awards that are paid by a negligent driver to the occupants of the other vehicle in order to compensate them for their losses. These damages are meant to cover the losses from automobile accidents which can be proven, including:

  • The cost to repair or replace the automobile that was damaged in the accident;
    • This may include the cost of renting a replacement auto while repair work is done;
  • An individual who is injured by a negligent driver could expect to receive damages to cover the costs of medical care, which is meant to cover costs associated with:
    • doctors;
    • medicines;
    • hospital stays; or
    • therapy;
  • If an individual who is injured in an automobile accident cannot do their job, they may be compensated for their lost wages.; and
  • An injured driver or passenger may request compensation for their pain and suffering related to the accident.

It may also be possible to obtain compensation for the losses that an injured individual may experience in the future. For example, if the individual is no longer able to work the same job as before their accident.

In some cases, the injured party may require long-term care in a nursing facility. The negligent driver may be required to pay for this long-term care.

It may require an expert to provide a reliable estimate of the amount of the future losses the injured party sustained.

Do Drivers Have Any Liability to Passengers in the Car?

A driver may have liability to the passengers in a vehicle, based on two legal theories, guest passenger statutes and non-guest passengers. In some states, there are automobile guest statutes which prohibit passengers of a vehicle from suing the driver for injuries suffered in an accident.

A guest statute only applies to a non-paying passenger. Therefore, these laws do not apply to passengers in:

  • taxis;
  • buses; or
  • other public transit.

No-guest passenger laws are laws governing paying passengers on a common carrier or public transportation. In certain circumstances, a common carrier may avoid liability.

However, for the most part, common carriers and public transportation entities have a duty of safety to their passengers.

Are Passengers in a Carpool or Share-the-Ride Automobile Guests?

There are no general rules governing automobile passengers in a share-the-ride or carpool arrangement. These types of passengers are somewhere between an automobile guest and a paying passenger.

A court will commonly analyze the circumstances of each individual case in order to determine the status of the passengers, including the following factors:

  • The purpose of the arrangement;
  • If there was an enforceable agreement;
  • Whether compensation was paid; and
  • The relationship between the parties.

Courts have held that if the purpose of the carpool is social or if the driver desires to assist the passenger, that passenger may be regarded as a guest. If, however, the motivation of the arrangement is for the material benefit of the parties, the passengers may not be considered guests.

Courts have considered the existence of a formal agreement for transportation as a factor in determining whether the passenger in the carpool is a guest under guest statutes. Courts have not been consistent regarding whether an enforceable contract between the parties is required to prohibit the passengers from suing the driver.

In general, when a passenger pays a monetary fee, which does not have to be in the form of money, guest statutes do not apply. It is important to note that compensation is not required to be in the form of cash or a cash equivalent.

If the parties have a close relationship apart from the carpool or share-the-ride arrangement tends to show that the passenger was a guest.

What Are Car Accident Settlements?

Car accident settlements are agreements where one party is responsible for paying for the losses which were suffered by the other party in an automobile accident. These are often entered into in connection with a trial.

Entering into a settlement agreement can help the parties obtain faster resolution to their case. It may also save money in terms of court fees and other related expenses.

Settlements can cover issues including:

  • Payment for injuries;
  • Payment for damage to property;
  • Costs of court expenses; and
  • Other expenses.

Should I Seek an Attorney if I have Been Injured in a Car Accident?

If you or a loved one have been involved in an automobile accident, it may be helpful to consult with a car accident attorney. Automobile accidents involve numerous complex issues which your attorney can help you to resolve.

Your attorney will help ensure that you receive compensation for your claim, that your rights are protected, and represent you in court. Many automobile accident cases settle outside of the courtroom.

It is important to have an attorney’s assistance during negotiations, especially during negotiations with an insurance company, as they will want to pay you the least amount of money possible.