Who Pays When You Sue in a Car Accident?
California is a fault state, or tort state, for car accidents, which means that victims must prove fault in order to establish legal liability. In other words, when you sue after a car accident, the person found legally liable for the accident is responsible for paying it. However, pursuing compensation after an accident isn’t always cut and dry. Your best course of action is to consult a car accident lawyer, who can review the specifics of your case and work on securing compensation on your behalf.
Securing compensation from the other driver’s insurance carrier
It isn’t always necessary to sue after a car accident. A personal injury lawyer can help you negotiate a fair settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. Since the other driver’s insurance adjuster may try to pin the blame for the accident on you, it’s in your best interests to speak with a lawyer first. Your lawyer can review your case and then assemble the evidence that proves the other driver was at fault.
Then, your lawyer can negotiate on your behalf in order to secure a fair settlement offer. This settlement should be sufficient to pay for your property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages. If the settlement offer is insufficient, then it may be time to think about suing the other driver directly. You might also use your own insurance coverage.
Using your own insurance coverage to pay accident-related expenses
It’s preferable to have the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage pay for your expenses. This is because you won’t be required to pay a deductible. However, you may want to explore the use of your own insurance coverage if any of the following are true:
- You were at fault for the accident.
- The at-fault driver lacked insurance coverage or lacked sufficient insurance coverage.
- The at-fault driver’s insurance company is trying to blame the accident on you.
You should always consult a lawyer if the insurance company insists you were to blame and you know that you weren’t. However, if you do end up using your own insurance coverage, it should pay for your property damage and medical expenses up to the policy limits.
Suing the at-fault driver for damages
If the other driver doesn’t have auto insurance or their insurance carrier has refused to offer you a fair settlement, then your lawyer may file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. At this point, the driver may elect to extend a settlement offer to you. Your lawyer can then work on negotiating a fair settlement. You should know that you aren’t obligated to accept a settlement offer. If you feel that it isn’t a fair settlement and doesn’t cover your expenses, you can instruct your attorney to reject the offer. In this case, you would take your chances in court.
If your case goes to court, your lawyer will need to present evidence to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident. For instance, cellphone records may be used to show the other driver was unlawfully distracted immediately prior to the crash. Surveillance camera footage may be used to show that the other driver ran a red light or otherwise drove recklessly. If the jury determines that the other driver was indeed at fault for the crash and liable for your losses, then you will be awarded a sum of money.
You should know, however, that being awarded money in a civil judgment and receiving your money are two entirely different things. The at-fault driver may lack the means to pay the judgment. If the at-fault driver can’t or won’t pay the civil judgment, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can suspend their license until the judgment is paid in full. This may compel the individual to take out a loan or make other financial arrangements in order to satisfy their debt to you.
Consult an experienced car accident attorney in California
Countless car accident victims in Southern California have turned to Ellis Injury Law for legal guidance and representation. We’ve secured more than $350 million for our clients, and we look forward to helping you move forward with your post-accident recovery by working towards the settlement or jury award that you deserve.
The initial consultation is free of charge and there is no obligation to file a lawsuit. You can have an experienced car accident attorney review your case and answer your questions, allowing you to make an informed decision for your future.