Can I Sue Someone For Negligence In A Car Accident?
A recent car accident in Quincy resulted in four people being hospitalized. Only one car was involved. This raises questions about what rights the passengers in the vehicle may have regarding whether they can sue the driver for negligence. Failing their ability to do so, passengers who suffered injuries will be forced to pay any out-of-pocket medical bills and may not seek compensation for their pain and suffering, or for their time lost from work.
What is Negligence?
Negligence is defined as a person’s failure to do something they should have done. While this accident does not immediately have a cause, the fact the car struck a curb and went airborne shows the driver did not maintain control of the vehicle.
Examples of Negligence in Car Accident Cases
Negligence can be actions of any type when it comes to a car accident. For example, someone running a stop sign, or a traffic light may be acting negligently, unless their brakes failed and they were unable to stop. Other examples of negligence include:
- Distracted driving — driving while talking to passengers and not focusing on the road. Using a cell phone or other electronic device, or simply turning away from the road for a minute to adjust the volume on the radio.
- Drowsy driving — a driver who gets behind the wheel when they are overtired or taking medication which can cause drowsiness could be found negligent.
- Operating under the influence — when an operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they may be operating negligently.
- Reckless driving — speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, or tailgating could all be signs of negligence.
Some of these are clear signs of negligence in car accident cases. When a driver is taking any actions which endangers others, whether they are passengers, other drivers, or pedestrians, they could be found negligent.
How Proving Negligence Can Help a Plaintiff Win Their Case
Proving negligence is a requirement in nearly all accident cases if you intend to collect any compensation outside of what may be available through your own insurance coverage in Massachusetts. This is because of the no-fault insurance rules which all drivers agree to when they register their vehicle. Under Massachusetts statutes, drivers obtain personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in minimum amounts of $20,000 for a single person injured, and $40,000 for total accident coverage. These minimums may not be sufficient to cover the losses of victims of a car accident.
What Damages Can Be Recovered With A Successful Claim?
An injured person can step outside the no-fault coverage rules if certain conditions are met. These include a victim who suffers a broken bone, serious disfigurement which is expected to be permanent, has to have a limb amputated, or loses sight or hearing due to their injuries. Another possible option is the victim’s out-of-pocket medical costs are in excess of $2,000.
When a no-fault claim is filed, a victim is restricted to specific amounts for medical costs, partial compensation for time lost from work, and other out-of-pocket losses. However, if victims meet the threshold to sue for negligence, they may have other areas of compensation available including.
- Pain and suffering
- Financial losses associated with the injury
- Medical bills resulting from the victim’s injury
It is always important to remember when filing a lawsuit there is no fixed amount which a victim of a car accident may be compensated. The facts of the case including the victim’s injuries, how quickly they may recover from their injury, the age of the victim, and other factors will determine the final compensation after a car accident.
When Should You Seek Legal Advice Regarding a Car Accident Lawsuit?
Many accident victims are reluctant to seek legal advice. However, in nearly all car accident cases, a victim should contact a car accident attorney. The reasons for this are simple:
- Victims may not know their rights
- Victims may not understand how to proceed after a driver behaved negligently
- The insurance company for the responsible driver may contact the victim
While many people believe they must stay within the framework of no-fault coverage in Massachusetts, it is not always so clear. If someone has suffered a serious injury, or has spent more than $2,000 for medical bills, an attorney can evaluate their case and let them know if they are eligible to file a lawsuit.
Steps Involved With Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
Filing a car accident lawsuit takes time and can be confusing. There are numerous steps which must be taken and certain evidence which must be prepared to get ready for a car accident lawsuit. Some of the steps which should be taken include:
- Determine if the victim’s injuries qualify them to file a lawsuit
- Determine if the victim shared fault in the accident
- Determine whether the driver behaved negligently
- Collect evidence of the negligence and proof of who caused the accident
- Discuss the accident with the victim’s insurer
- Provide notification to the negligent driver of an intent to sue
- Ensure the lawsuit is filed in a timely manner within the three year statute of limitations
Since most of us are unfamiliar with the civil legal system, getting an experienced car accident attorney involved as soon after an accident as possible makes a great deal of sense and can help a victim obtain all of the necessary proof needed to file a successful suit.
Massachusetts’ shared fault rules also may complicate a lawsuit. If the driver is completely at fault for the accident, this may not be a factor. However, if their insurer or attorney can prove the victim played a role in the outcome of the accident, the victim’s claim may be reduced by the amount of blame assigned to them.
Working With an Experienced Injury Attorney May Help
Not every car accident results in a victim being able to hold the driver accountable for their negligence. However, every accident victim does have the right to have their case evaluated thoroughly to ensure that if they are eligible to sue someone for negligence in a car accident, they have a strong advocate who is helping protect their rights.
When someone has suffered an injury in a car accident which they believe was caused by a negligent driver, they should seek legal advice. Call 508-226-450 or contact a Massachusetts auto accident injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident.