Know When to Sue After a Car Accident
Car accidents can leave people seriously injured. Those injuries are often excruciating and costly to treat. For this reason, many people file an insurance claim, a personal injury lawsuit, or both after a car accident. However, not all car crashes warrant a personal injury claim or a lawsuit. So, how do you know if you have a car accident case, and when you should file a claim? Below are some points to consider as you decide whether you should speak with a car accident attorney about your case.
When Should I Contact an Attorney After a Car Accident?
If you think you have a personal injury claim, it’s important to speak to a car accident attorney as soon as possible. When a lawyer is part of a case from the very beginning, he or she will know what to say and do to protect you every step of the way. Your attorney will be able to preserve evidence and document your injuries and other losses from the start.
Even if you are not sure whether you should file a claim, an attorney can review your case and determine whether or not you have grounds to file a personal injury claim. At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, our personal injury attorneys offer free consultations for this very reason. So even if you don’t end up having a claim, you haven’t lost anything just by speaking to someone about your case.
When Should You File an Injury Claim?
Before speaking to an attorney, there are some ways you can determine on your own if you have a valid claim or not.
First, if you were seriously injured or a family member was killed during the crash, you should definitely speak to an attorney about filing a claim. Any time an accident caused a serious injury or death, the claim is likely going to be very complex. There could be multiple parties involved, which means multiple lawsuits, complicating the process even more. You may also have to file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault driver to recoup the cost that insurance does not cover.
Additionally, if your serious injuries are preventing you from working, you should talk to a lawyer about filing a claim. An attorney can help determine how much income you are losing due to your injury. A lawyer will also calculate how the injuries will affect you in the future. For example, if your injuries have rendered you unable to work in the same job you held before the accident, your earnings could be negatively affected. An attorney will take this into consideration and include that loss of earning capacity in your claim.
Lastly, if your injuries are affecting your quality of life, you should consult an attorney about filing a claim. These losses, although not physical or tangible, are still losses all the same. For example, a person may love playing sports and may regularly participate in sporting activities approximately three times a week before the accident. After the car crash, they are so injured they can no longer play sports at all. They may never be able to play sports again. This is a loss of quality of life, and those injured can claim compensation for it.
If your accident has taken something you love from you and has reduced your quality of life, an attorney can help you file a claim. Attorneys know how to calculate these losses and demand the full and fair compensation you deserve for both economic and non-economic damages.
How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue?
All states have a statute of limitations on personal injury claims, and Texas is no exception. This is the time limit you have to file your lawsuit. In the Lone Star State, the statute of limitations on most personal injury claims is two years. If you wait to file your lawsuit until after this time, the courts will likely throw out the case and you will be barred from receiving compensation.
Like most states, Texas does have some exceptions to the statute of limitations, although there are not as many as in other areas. These exceptions will toll the statute of limitations, or stop the clock from ticking on your claim. Although your case will still have a time limit for some point in the future, the time you have to file will be extended.
The first exception to Texas’ statute is when a person is under a legal disability. This could mean that they are under the age of 18, or that they are of unsound mind. In these cases, the courts recognize that a person does not have the mental capacity to file a claim. These individuals can file a claim after their 18th birthday, when they typically have two years to do so, or up until two years after becoming mentally competent.
In rarer cases, sometimes the defendant, or the person that caused the injury, will leave the state of Texas. This is sometimes done for legitimate reasons, such as that the person found better employment in another state. Other times, they may leave simply to avoid the lawsuit. In any case, when the defendant leaves the state, the statute of limitations is tolled until they return.
No matter the circumstances of your case, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to avoid running into problems with the statute of limitations. Remember, building a case takes time, and the sooner your attorney can begin collecting evidence, the better.
What Is Maximum Medical Improvement?
Before you can file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit, you must have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This is the only way to determine how much in damages you should claim. MMI simply means that you have reached the fullest extent of your recovery. Your injuries are not going to get any better, nor are they going to get worse.
Once you have reached MMI, you can determine how much your injuries are going to cost you. Reaching MMI typically means that you are no longer receiving treatment. However, you may still need assistive devices, medication, physical therapy, and other types of assistance for which you will incur costs.
Can Someone Sue You for a Car Accident If You Have Insurance?
Yes. Unfortunately, insurance coverage often isn’t enough to pay for the full extent of losses suffered after a serious injury, and the insurance company will not pay out more than the limits of a policy. For example, if you only have the minimum coverage and were at fault for an accident that left another person paralyzed, they could only seek a total of $30,000 for their injuries from your insurance. If there were other accident victims, they would have to divide the minimum limit of $60,000 between themselves and others. A paralysis injury, though, can easily cost a person $1 million or more. In this case, insurance coverage wouldn’t even cover a fraction of the cost of injury.
Thats why many Texans don’t worry about getting sued after a car accident because they assume that’s why they have insurance. If a car crash occurs and someone is hurt, the victim will file a claim with the insurance company and the insurer will pay out on that claim. The worst that can happen, many believe, is that their car insurance rates will increase.
However, your insurance coverage will only provide for a certain amount of damages. In Texas, most drivers must carry a minimum of $30,000 per person in liability insurance in case there is an accident that involves injury. They are also required to carry at least $60,000 in liability insurance for the entire accident, and a minimum of $25,000 in coverage for property damage.
In these cases, accident victims can file a claim for compensation directly against the at-fault driver. This can cripple a person financially. A judge may award the paralyzed accident victim close to the $1 million in damages they asked for. A judge may even award more if they find the defendant acted with gross negligence or carelessness. In many cases, a judge may determine what a defendant can afford to pay and still provide for themselves. In these instances, accident victims may not receive as much in compensation as they had hoped.
Due to this risk, you may consider purchasing additional insurance if you can afford it. Increasing your liability limits will reduce your chances of being held personally liable in an accident claim.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that when the at-fault party doesn’t have any assets or means for paying compensation, it may not be worthwhile to sue. Going to court is costly and time-consuming, so if there is nothing to get out of it in the end, it’s likely not worth a victim’s or a lawyer’s time to file a lawsuit.
Talk to an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Now
If you have been in an accident, you might be wondering if you have a valid personal injury claim. At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, our car accident attorneys that can review your case for free and discuss your legal options with you.
We are dedicated to protecting our clients and ensuring their rights are upheld, and we will do the same for you. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.