When you suffer an injury in a car accident, it is important to understand the various types of car accident liability claims. Filing a liability claim is necessary to obtain the compensation you deserve after a serious auto accident.
Being involved in a serious car accident devastates victims and their families. Oftentimes, a car accident brings financial burdens to households, especially when the injured person provides some or all of the household income. Mounting medical bills not covered by insurance and lost wages from missing work due to hospitalization and injury adds emotional and financial stress on top of the physical pain of injury.
Seeking out a car accident lawyer for compensation from a car accident liability claim will not erase the past, but it can help alleviate some or all of the financial challenges associated with your accident.
If you have sustained serious injuries or lost a loved one in a car accident caused by another party's negligence, you may have the right to sue for damages under your state's law (provided you first exhaust your own personal liability protection (PIP) insurance policy if your state is a no-fault state).
What does it mean to be liable for an accident?
Liability is another word for "fault." If a driver is liable for an accident, then they are responsible for the accident and the injuries and damages they caused. To collect the compensation for the damages you suffered, you must file an accident liability claim.
Broadly speaking, you can file a personal injury claim and a property damage liability claim to recover your losses. Each of these types of accident liability claims might compensate you for a variety of expenses and loss, but specifics vary based on each situation.
This guide provides the different types of accident liability claims you can file after a car accident, followed by the damages that you might recover for your claim.
Personal Injury Car Accident Liability Claims
The different types of personal injury auto accident liability claims depend on the party or parties you name as defendant(s) in your lawsuit. Filing an accident liability claim might include one or more of the following:
Accident Liability Claims Against Another Driver
The most common car accident claims are those against another motorist who hit you. This might be a driver in a car or truck. If you are riding a motorcycle or a bicycle, or a pedestrian who has been hit by a car, your accident also falls under this type of claim. In large crashes, more than one driver might have legal liability for causing the accident. Regardless of the number of parties involved in the accident, your car accident lawyer will seek to prove that the defendant was negligent in operating a vehicle, resulting in the accident and your injuries. These “everyday” car accident claims typically don't involve unusual circumstances. Often they result from the poor decisions of a driver who was drowsy, distracted, or traveling too fast for conditions.
Dram Shop Liability Claim
A dram shop claim is a type of third-party car accident liability involving drunk driving. Dram shop laws allow you to sue an establishment that served alcohol to someone who later caused an accident because he was drunk; however, this only applies under specific circumstances. Bars or restaurants who knowingly serve a minor can be liable under state law if the minor causes accident or injury. However, each state is different in how they handle accident liability and drunk driving. Florida's law, for example, differs from many other states in regard to serving alcohol to adults. Most dram shop laws hold business owners liable if they over-serve or knowingly serve someone who is visibly intoxicated. Under Florida law, however, you can only hold an establishment liable for harm caused by an adult drunk driver if the establishment knowingly served “a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.”
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Accident Liability Claim
Sometimes when you get in a car accident, you might find the at-fault party does not have any or adequate insurance to cover your claims. In no-fault auto insurance states, the other driver's lack of insurance doesn't really matter to you, because you have your own PIP coverage to pay for your injury-related expenses. However, in severe accidents in which you exceed your policy limits and need to seek compensation beyond what your insurance offers, the other driver's lack of insurance can present a problem (particularly if the other driver does not have personal assets sufficient to cover your accident claims). That is where uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage comes in handy. It's a form of insurance you purchase that will “stand in” when neither the other motorist nor his insurance can pay your claim.
Product Liability Claim
When car accidents result from a defective vehicle or defective part, your attorney might advise you to sue the car or car part manufacturer for damages related to the accident and injuries. Motor vehicles can have three different types of defects:
- Design defects which make the product unreasonably dangerous.
- Manufacturing defects which occur when assembling cars, shipping cars, or at any point during and after production before the first owner takes delivery.
- Information defects which include a manufacturer failing to warn a consumer of inherent dangers associated with the using the product as intended.
When car accidents occur as a result of a defective vehicle, it's not uncommon for more than one consumer to experience the same type of accident. In these cases, accident victims might find mass tort litigation or an ongoing class action lawsuit to be the best way to seek compensation. An experienced car accident attorney can advise you on the best course of action for your individual circumstances.
Car Accident Liability Claims Against the Government
If a poorly-designed or maintained road caused your car accident, then you may have a car accident liability claim against the city or county responsible for road building and upkeep. Your attorney must prove the government knew about the hazard or should have known about the hazard. Suing the government for damages has some limitations. You typically cannot hold individual government employees liable, you cannot sue for punitive damages, and Florida law prohibits you from collecting more than $200,000 in compensatory damages, or $300,000 if more than one party is involved, in most cases.
Medical Malpractice Liability Claim
It's not a regular occurrence for medical malpractice to factor into a car accident claim, but it does happen on occasion. If you or another driver cause an accident because of medical malpractice, your doctor and the facility at which he or she practices might be liable. Some examples of medical malpractice causing a car accident include:
- A doctor fails to diagnose a serious illness or condition which causes a driver to have a medical emergency while driving.
- A doctor fails to warn a patient about the dangers of driving while using a particular medication.
- A doctor releases an injured person to drive too soon.
- A doctor prescribes medication to a patient who has a known allergy to the substance.
Basically, any action that a doctor takes or fails to take related to diagnosis, treatment, or aftercare, which leads to a driver losing control of their vehicle and causing an accident, puts the doctor at risk for a medical malpractice suit. Although this is another third-party claim, Florida law has special pre-lawsuit procedural requirements for medical malpractice cases, making them complex. A skilled personal injury attorney who has dealt with medical malpractice claims and car accidents will guide you through this complicated process.
Wrongful Death Claim
If you have lost a loved one in a car accident, Florida law entitles survivors to file a wrongful death accident liability claim against the at-fault party. A wrongful death action might include any of the previously-listed claims, but differs in one major way. The deceased victim's survivors only have two years from the time of death to take legal action, instead of four years like most other personal injury claims. Additionally, a personal representative for the deceased typically initiates the suit on behalf of the estate and surviving family members.
Recovering Damages in Car Accident Injury Claims
If you make a car accident injury claim and your lawyer negotiates a fair settlement or the court returns a verdict in your favor, then you might recover the following losses:
- Medical expenses. Severe car accidents cause accident victims to rack up medical bills for a variety of services including, ambulance rides, emergency department visits, diagnostic scans, x-rays, surgery, aftercare, and prescription medications.
- Future medical costs. Severe injuries require weeks or months for recovery. Accident victims might need additional surgeries, follow-up, care or other treatment after a settlement or going to trial. Future medical treatment also includes long-term care for catastrophic injuries or lifelong treatment for a chronic condition caused by an accident.
- Rehabilitative service costs. Severe injuries often require weeks or months of physical therapy for victims to gain back all of their functions—if they are able to make a full recovery. The court might compensate a victim for expected physical therapy as well as any assistive devices or assistive technology needed to function. Examples of assistive devices include crutches, wheelchairs, canes, walkers, and prosthetic limbs; assistive technology refers to computer programs to help victims recover sensory functions lost from a severe accident, such as speech or hearing.
- Lost wages. Depending on the severity of a car accident, an injured person might miss days, weeks, or even months of work. Although employee sick leave and PIP insurance will cover wages for a short time, extended leaves results in additional lost wages. Even when an injured car accident victim returns to work, doctors might limit hours or activities, making it take longer to return to full-time pre-accident status. Full-time and regular part time employees typically include lost wages in car accident claims.
- Lost earning capacity. This is the legal term for future lost wages. Much like future medical costs, extensive recovery might cause an injured person to miss work beyond the trial date. Lost earning capacity especially factors into car accident injuries resulting in permanent disability. Catastrophic injuries cause disabilities preventing injured persons from returning to work, or requiring a change of career, which might force a reduction in salary. When a victim suffers paralysis, amputation, or another life-changing injury, lost earning capacity is typically included in the claim.
- Pain and suffering. Injury accident claims often include requests for compensation for pain and suffering when severe injuries have occurred. This includes tangible physical pain as well as the mental anguish as a result of a reduced quality of life and dealing with a serious injury.
- Loss of consortium. Catastrophic car accidents can wreak havoc on marital relationships by driving a physical and emotional wedge between spouses. Car accident injury victims whose marriage suffers from their injuries can sue for loss of consortium with a spouse.
- Scarring and disfigurement. Another type of non-economic loss from car accident claims includes the humiliation, embarrassment, and anger stemming from scars and disfigurement caused by an accident. This compensation often accompanies accident injury victims who have suffered burns or amputations.
Property Damage Car Accident Liability Claims
Depending on which website you visit and which financial guru runs the numbers, the average new vehicle costs somewhere between $35,000 and $45,000. Most accident injuries don't occur in brand new cars, but even assuming you were driving a new vehicle with a sticker price double or triple the average, your medical expenses will easily exceed the cost of a totaled vehicle in a severe accident. Yet, property damage still makes up a portion of the financial loss and inconvenience of a car accident.
The other driver's mandatory property damage liability (PDL) insurance coverage should cover your claims if you sustain property damage. If your damages exceed those policy limits—minimum $10,000 in Florida—you can sue for additional damages in civil court. If the court rules in your favor you might recover the following:
- Vehicle damage. When you take your car to a garage after an accident, they will provide you with an estimate for repairing your vehicle. Your insurance company will review this estimate and often send out an adjuster to confirm, ultimately making the decision to pay repairs or total your vehicle and pay replacement funds.
- Damage or loss of property in the vehicle. Insurance policies differ on what they cover inside a vehicle. It's unlikely you will receive compensation for each little thing in your car during the accident, but you may recover losses of large and expensive items. You can, however, include these items in a property damage lawsuit in civil court. Speak with your attorney to find out what applies to your situation.
- Rental car expense. If you need to rent a car while yours is in the shop or while you look for a new vehicle to buy, you can seek reimbursement for this expense in your PDL claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Contact an Experienced Accident Injury Attorney Today
If you have suffered injury in a car accident, you might be overwhelmed about the next steps you should take to hold the at-fault driver liable for their actions. With offices across both Florida coasts, and across the nation, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or through our online contact form to schedule a free consultation and learn the best way forward with your car accident liability claim.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765