Whether you can be sued for a no-fault accident depends greatly on the circumstances of your crash. “No fault” generally refers to states requiring drivers to purchase personal injury protection (PIP) policies and turn to their insurance company for compensation after a crash. However, each state also has laws about when the victim can sue the at-fault driver.
The best way to learn about options for recovering compensation after a crash is to discuss your case with a car accident attorney in your state. Most states have fault-based car accident laws that allow victims to hold the negligent driver legally responsible through an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Understanding How No-Fault Car Accident Laws Work
There are 12 states with no-fault car accident laws in place. They are: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Of those 12, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania operate a choice no-fault system. The remaining 38 states have fault-based car accident laws.
In a state with no-fault car insurance requirements, a motorist hurt in a crash files a claim for basic coverage from their insurance provider. Depending on the state’s requirements, this should cover some medical treatment expenses and lost income, up to the policy maximum.
For those with serious injuries, there is generally a statutory threshold, set by state law, that allows them to step outside this system and sue the at-fault driver. This is generally either based on the severity of their injuries or the costs they incur.
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When Can Someone Sue in a State Without No-Fault Laws?
In general, victims hurt in collisions can sue the at-fault driver in most states regardless of their injuries or the severity of the crash. They could recover compensation by showing the other driver caused or contributed to their collision and that they suffered physical, emotional, and/or financial harm.
How states determine fault and shared fault affects these cases. Some states allow those involved to sue someone else who was at least 50 percent or more at fault. Other states set the percentage at 51 and above. Others do not set this limit, and anyone hurt in a crash can sue anyone else involved. However, the plaintiff’s recovery is greatly reduced by any fault they held in the crash.
These are complex cases, and your best option is to work with an attorney to understand your rights and options following a crash. Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations for crash victims. You can learn about the laws in your state during this complimentary case assessment.
Is Suing My Best Option to Recover Compensation?
Filing a lawsuit and preparing to take a case to a jury trial is certainly an option in most crash cases that occur in states with fault-based car accident laws. However, is it your best option? Sometimes. The same is true if you suffer serious injuries and meet the statutory threshold in a no-fault state.
Preparing, filing, and handling a lawsuit are expensive and time-consuming tasks. If possible, crash victims usually want their money as soon as possible while spending as little as they can on navigating the legal system. This makes taking a case to trial unattractive unless absolutely necessary. Thankfully, a car accident case rarely goes to trial.
Most crash cases settle without requiring a lawsuit. The victim—and their lawyer, when they have one—file an insurance claim based on the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance policy. They present strong evidence and a compelling case to show fault and liability. The insurance company negotiates for a fair settlement, and they agree to a payout. Other possibilities include:
- The lawyer files a lawsuit but continues negotiations, and the case settles
- The insurance company increases its offer when it realizes a lawsuit is imminent
- The court mandates mediation, and the insurance company makes a fair offer
Only occasionally do these cases go to a jury trial. When that occurs, the jury will listen to the case facts and determine fault, liability, and a cash award if they believe that is appropriate.
How Long do I Have to Sue After a Car Accident?
There are deadlines for how quickly you need to decide to sue after a crash. Each state sets its own deadlines through a law called the statute of limitations. These set general timelines for personal injury cases. They range from one year to three years in most locations. For example:
- Louisiana gives victims up to one year to begin a lawsuit under La. Civ. Code Art. 3492
- Alabama allows victims to sue for up to two years after a crash per Ala. Code § 6-2-38
- Arkansas (Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-105) and Mississippi (Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49) give victims three years from the accident date to sue
These deadlines are not set in stone. Each state has numerous exceptions that could alter the timeline in your case. You should speak to an attorney as soon as your injuries allow. You want to ensure you understand your rights and the deadlines in your case.
Getting started early is also important because it allows your lawyer to identify and preserve more evidence. Essential evidence to help prove fault and liability could disappear in the first days and weeks after a crash. This could include video of the accident, eyewitness accounts, and evidence from the collision scene.
Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer About Your Legal Options for Free
The Morris Bart law firm offers free car accident consultations for victims hurt in the areas we serve. This includes all parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We are your Gulf South personal injury firm, operating 15 locations to serve you. If you were hurt, we have an attorney available to discuss your legal options and how we can help. We are a contingency fee firm meaning we don’t get paid until you do.
Contact us today to speak to a lawyer about your traffic accident case.
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