If you’re planning on moving or going on a road trip to a different state, it’s wise to get an idea of what might happen if you’re in a car accident. After all, no one is safe from a car accident no matter where you are.
When talking about laws regarding car accidents, there are two types of states: fault, and no fault.
What Happens if I’m in a Car Accident in a Fault State?
Most states are“ fault” states and allow injured people to pursue lawsuits against negligent drivers. However, every lawsuit must have specific elements to be a valid case.
4 Elements to Every Car Accident Lawsuit
- Duty of Safety: In car accident lawsuits, it’s established that drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely and to do whatever possible to avoid causing an injury to other people or their property.
- Breach of Duty: The plaintiff must prove the other party violated their duty by driving their vehicle recklessly or unsafely.
- Causation: The plaintiff must prove that it was the other party’s actions specifically which led to their damages. This step is closely related to the breach of duty and can be shown in many ways, often using the concept of “reasonable care” to demonstrate that if it were not for the defendant’s negligent actions, injuries or damages wouldn’t have occurred.
- Damages: Finally, the plaintiff must prove they’ve sustained damages which have monetary value. Economic damages need to be supported by evidence, such as receipts, medical bills, car repair documents, etc. which gives a measurable value to your damages. Additional damages are used can include pain and suffering, or emotional distress. Additionally, in certain cases, punitive damages may be appropriate, like if the other driver was driving under the influence.
Keep in mind that laws regarding car accident lawsuits vary from state to state. Maryland, for example, has a tort on “contributory negligence” which can make it impossible to recover damages from another party if you are found to be liable. Even if you’re only one percent at fault for the crash, “contributory negligence” still applies.
On the other hand, in states like Arizona, the concept of “comparative negligence” is applied. In this instance, a jury will assign a percentage of liability to each party involved in a crash representing the amount of damages that the party will have to pay in compensation.
What Happens in No-Fault States?
In general, car accidents in “no fault” states are handled by private insurance and give compensation regardless of who was at fault for damages. Insurance will pay for a portion of property damages and medical bills, so it’s a good idea to be familiar with your insurance policy and shop around for the best coverage.
Again, every state is different in how they handle car accident cases. There are some states with exceptions that allow drivers to pursue a lawsuit if their medical bills reach a high threshold established by that state’s law.
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact an attorney to have your important questions answered and to discuss your options moving forward.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Pincus & Lespron, PLC, for their insight into car accidents.