According to an early report from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, there were 9,330 car accident-related deaths in the first quarter of 2023 on roadways in the United States.

What is a car accident lawsuit?

Car accidents happen frequently, with many resulting in injuries or fatalities. According to an early report from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, there were 9,330 car accident-related deaths in the first quarter of 2023. In 2022, there were a total of 9,645 fatalities on United States roadways. Data from 2019 shows that 4.5 million people were injured in motor vehicle crashes.

When a driver is injured in a car accident due to the reckless or negligent driving of another, they may choose to file a personal injury lawsuit against that driver. A lawsuit can help the injured party receive compensation for their losses, also called damages. In many cases, the injured party receives a fair settlement offer from an insurance company.

However, if a negligent driver has insufficient insurance coverage, the settlement may not be enough to pay for all related damages. In this case, a claimant may want to file a lawsuit to claim compensation for:

  • Property damage.
  • Medical bills.
  • Disfigurement or permanent disability.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Mental and emotional anguish.
  • Lost wages and loss of future earning potential.
  • Loss of companionship in the case of a wrongful death.
  • Loss of affection for a spouse who is not the same after injuries.

Each state has laws regarding who is at fault in a driving collision and how it affects insurance payouts. In no-fault driver states, an individual’s own insurance company will pay small claims for damages related to an accident. In contrast, at-fault driver states require the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident to pay for damages. It can be more challenging to bring a lawsuit against another driver in no-fault states due to laws regarding payment thresholds and when a case must be filed. It is always best to speak to an attorney before filing a car accident lawsuit.

Critical things to understand about car accidents

A car accident can happen quickly and for many reasons. Sometimes, the accident is unpreventable due to circumstances out of the control of either driver, such as poor weather or an object in the road, but other times, the accident results from careless driving. Some of the most common reasons car accident injuries occur include:

  • Driving under the influence: Car crashes that involved alcohol injured 497,000 people in 2019, costing communities $68.9 billion.
  • Driving while distracted: Nonfatal injuries due to distracted driving totaled 1.3 million in 2019, making up $98.2 billion in economic costs.
  • Driving over the speed limit: Speeding was associated with nonfatal injuries to 498,000 people in 2019, and the costs of these accident-related damages are the equivalent of $141 for each U.S. citizen.
  • Driving without a seat belt: Not wearing a seat belt caused serious injuries to 46,000 people in 2019, which resulted in $11 billion in economic costs.

When an accident results from negligence, a claimant has the right to seek legal counsel if they feel they were not fairly compensated for their damages and want to file a lawsuit. Here are some types of damages a plaintiff might seek:

  • General damages: These are non-economic damages due to the negligent driving behavior of a defendant. General damages typically refer to injuries that disfigure or disable a person, resulting in a lower quality of life, pain and suffering, and the need for regular assistance with daily activities.
  • Special damages: These are economic damages that a plaintiff can document that result from injuries caused by the car accident. Special damages might include the cost to replace or repair a damaged vehicle, medical bills for treatments and prescriptions, and past and future income losses.
  • Punitive damages: These are additional damages awarded to plaintiffs in some car accident cases involving a grossly negligent driver’s drunk driving or distracted driving. This extra cost aims to punish the defendant and prevent the behavior in the future.

The impact of car accidents

A collision involving two or more cars can have a wide-reaching impact. The people involved in the crash can suffer serious injuries, while communities are left with the tax burden of paying for any damages to public property. Car insurance costs can increase due to too many accidents happening in an area. This means that even with a clean driving record, people may pay higher car insurance costs because accidents happen where they live.

Medical bills for those injured can pile up while they wait for a car accident settlement. Sometimes, these unpaid medical bills can also be charged to taxpayers. An injured person may no longer be able to work or live independently, putting further strain on the community. To help recover some of their losses, car accident victims can file a lawsuit if they have evidence that proves another driver was negligent.

Adverse events associated with car accidents

People can receive many kinds of injuries in a car crash depending on the type of vehicle and how fast it was going, the age of the driver and passengers, and the circumstances of the collision. Here are some frequent outcomes associated with car accidents.

Orthopedic injuries

Orthopedic injuries affect tendons, ligaments, joints, muscles, and bones. Symptoms that may come with an orthopedic injury include:

  • Swelling.
  • Bruising.
  • Tenderness.
  • Numbness.
  • Severe pain.

Skeletal injuries

Broken bones are common in a car accident. Some of the bones that can break in a collision are:

  • Femur.
  • Wrist.
  • Hip.
  • Skull.
  • Spine.
  • Arm.
  • Pelvis.
  • Rib.

Soft tissue injuries

Soft tissue injuries happen to soft areas of the body in the form of strains, bruises, and sprains. The two most common types of soft tissue injuries are:

  • Acute: These happen directly following an accident.
  • Chronic: These injuries are long-lasting and can affect a person for life.

Neurological injuries

Neurological injuries include nerve damage that can lead to loss of feeling, muscle twitching, and body weakness. Some of the symptoms of this condition are:

  • Speech loss.
  • Tingling limbs.
  • Tingling sensation in extremities.
  • An abnormal amount of pain and sensitivity.
  • Paralysis in one or more body parts.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness when sitting or standing.
  • Loss of muscle strength.

Internal injuries

During an impact, a victim’s internal organs can move out of place, causing damage. Internal injuries can affect the stomach, lungs, bladder, and major blood vessels, potentially causing:

  • Abdominal aorta aneurysm.
  • Broken ribs.
  • Internal bleeding.
  • Pneumothorax.
  • Ruptured spleen.

Head injuries

Trauma to the head can happen when it hits a car window, the steering wheel, or another object inside the vehicle. Head injuries are anything that mildly or severely damages the skull, brain, or scalp. These injuries might be:

  • Open: An open head injury penetrates the skull.
  • Closed: A closed head injury does not penetrate the skull.
  • Concussion: A concussion happens when the head is jolted severely, even if it does not strike an object.
  • Primary lesion: A primary lesion can occur relative to the initial head injury.
  • Secondary lesion: A secondary lesion can develop after a head injury is sustained.

Disfigurement injuries

Disfigurement injuries are those that alter a victim’s appearance. These injuries may affect a person for the rest of their life. Some disfiguring injuries include:

  • Loss of a limb.
  • Serious burns on the face or arms.
  • Severe lacerations that require surgery.
  • Damage to teeth and gums.

Following a car accident: steps to take

After a car accident, victims can be confused and need medical care. However, it is vital to follow a few key steps once the injured parties are cared for so there are no questions about what happened when the time comes to make a claim. These steps are:

  1. Assessing the situation to make sure everyone involved is out of harm’s way, and all injuries are attended to.
  2. Talking to the police and filing an official report, as this can help when making a claim or implementing a lawsuit.
  3. Gathering evidence to demonstrate that careless driving was the reason for the crash.
  4. Sharing information with all involved parties and documenting the information of others.
  5. Making a claim with the right insurance company, depending on the laws of the state where the accident occurred.
  6. Discussing the car accident case with an attorney to determine legal standing. Find a lawyer.

Decisions regarding liability

Decisions regarding liability in a car accident lawsuit will depend on the evidence provided. A claimant needs supporting evidence to prove that another party’s negligence potentially caused an accident that resulted in injuries. This may be easier to do in some situations than others. A plaintiff with enough evidence may be offered a settlement, or they may decide to go to follow legal processes. If the case goes to Court, a judge or jury will determine who is liable and what the compensation will be.