Being involved in a car accident is traumatic, and right after the incident, one of the last things on your mind would be filing a lawsuit. However, it is crucial for you to act quickly, because the longer you wait, the harder it might be to seek compensation.
After a car accident, you may deal with the other driver, your insurer and their insurer, physicians, and even repair shops (if your vehicle can be repaired). The stress of a car accident makes it hard to focus, let alone recover from your injuries. As your bills continue to pile up, you may wonder what your options are if you need to file a lawsuit. More importantly, you may question how long you should wait before speaking to an attorney or filing an official lawsuit.
The length of time you must wait to file depends on the type of accident, insurance company negotiations, and any unique factors in your case. One thing that is for certain, however, is that you should consult with an attorney quickly – even if you are not ready to file a lawsuit just yet. Meeting with an attorney ensures you at least start the process, and you have experienced professional advising you as to when the right time is to file so that you are not guessing.
Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit – Everything You Need to Know
The first step after a car accident is not a lawsuit or even insurance negotiations – it is seeking medical attention. Once you have seen a doctor, received treatment, and documented the accident, the next step is to contact your insurance company along with the other party’s insurer. You may wonder if you can sue the driver or their insurance company, but before you can, you should first file an accident claim with the at-fault party’s insurer.
Once you file the claim, the process begins. Here is where insurance companies will try to negotiate a lower than fair payout and where you will provide evidence that increases the compensation offer they give you.
When the insurer stops working with you or you feel as though they are pushing off the investigation to avoid settling, you may wonder where you go from here. Do you sue the insurance company? Do you file a lawsuit against the driver? The answer depends on a few factors.
First, liability must be determined officially. You may know the other party caused the accident, but you need proof. An accident attorney is crucial here. Your lawyer will help determine who is at fault and help you determine how much compensation you might be entitled to based on the percentage of fault assigned to each party.
Most importantly, your attorney will make sure that the insurance company is not trying to push the blame onto you unfairly so that they can reduce how much they will pay you.
Once liability is decided, the next question is to verify your state laws. Every state has unique laws regarding liability and how cases are handled when the victim is partially at fault, too. Your attorney could help you here because they know how compensation rules work in your state and what risks there are for filing a lawsuit if you were partially at fault.
Negotiating with the Insurance Company
Before your attorney pushes for a lawsuit, they will first try to negotiate privately with the insurer. Often, this is the only step you need. Insurance companies are more apt to settle for a fair compensation value when an attorney is involved.
This is because insurers know that, if they do not settle or offer fair compensation, the attorney is likely to move onto the lawsuit phase – and the insurer could end up paying more from a trial settlement than private negotiations.
Before your attorney even begins the negotiations with the insurer, they will first determine how much is a fair settlement amount. The number they come up with is their goal, and they will work to push the insurer into that goal area. Negotiations will often include a lot of back-and-forth between both parties.
Filing Your Lawsuit
If negotiations breakdown or your attorney feels that the insurer will not offer a fair settlement privately, then they may move onto the lawsuit phase. At this point, a few weeks or months may have passed since the incident.
Your attorney will file a civil lawsuit against the at-fault driver because they are the person liable for your injuries because they caused the crash. Your attorney might also name the insurance company since they would be liable for paying a portion of the compensation.
Insurers Only Pay up to Policy Limits
While your attorney might think you are due at least $250,000 in compensation, the insurer is not liable to pay that entire amount. Instead, insurers only pay up to the policy maximum. So, if the driver only has up to $100,000 in coverage, the insurer will only pay $100,000 of that $250,000. From there, your attorney would seek the remainder from the at-fault driver. At this point, it would come down to whether the at-fault driver has the assets or the ability to pay the remaining amount. If the court does award you that full $250,000, your attorney does have ways to get the remainder from the at-fault driver through payments, seizing assets, and having the driver pay using any liquid assets.
Speak with a Trusted Attorney First
Florida has unique laws when it comes to filing a lawsuit. Because Florida laws complicate these claims, it is best to hire a local attorney with experience handling motor vehicle collision cases. The team at the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld, P.A. can assist you with your case.
To get started, call 954-677-0155 or contact us online with your questions.