Introduction. The driver or a passenger that is involved in a collision can bring a lawsuit for damages. In order to succeed in the lawsuit, the injured person must show that a driver or drivers were negligent.
Who Can Bring The Lawsuit?
Anyone injured in an automobile accident can bring the lawsuit. This can be a driver, a passenger or even a pedestrian.
Who Can Be Sued In An Automobile Accident?
The person that causes the accident can be sued. If it is a one-car accident, a passenger can sue the driver if the driver was negligent – even if it is a friend or family member. If it is a multi-car accident, multiple drivers can be sued if they were negligent.
What Must Be Proved To Win The Case?
This is known as the burden of proof. The injured party must prove three things:
- That the defendant (the person who you are alleging is at fault) was negligent;
- That the person bringing the suit was in fact injured; and
- That the negligence of the defendant caused the injury to the Plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit).
This proof is not beyond a reasonable doubt, such as in a criminal case, but it is simply by the greater weight of the evidence or the preponderance of the evidence. Some attorneys will say that all you have to do is tip the scales of justice ever so slightly in the Plaintiff’s favor, and then the Plaintiff will win.
What If I Am Partially At Fault?
In most states there is a doctrine known as comparative negligence. This means that the injured party bringing the lawsuit will have his/her negligence compared to the negligence of the defendant (the person who you are alleging is at fault).
Negligence is defined most generally as the failure to use reasonable care when driving an automobile. For example, a driver can be negligent for driving too fast for conditions, failing to slow down in time to avoid an accident or failing to keep a careful look out.
When comparing negligence in Illinois, the injured party must prove that his negligence was 50% or less in order to make a recovery. And then his recovery will be diminished by his percentage of negligence.
In Missouri, there is what is known as “pure” comparative negligence. The person bringing the lawsuit can be more than 50% at fault and still recover, but the amount of his recovery will be reduced by his percentage of negligence.
What Kind Of Damages Can Be Recovered?
Injured parties can recover the typical damages in a personal injury lawsuit. These type of damages are as follows:
- Lost wages, past and future;
- Medical bills, past and future;
- Pain and suffering, past and future;
- Disability or loss of normal life, past and future;
- Aggravation of a preexisting ailment or condition; and
- Damage to personal property or vehicle.
Obviously, if a death occurs, damages can be for the conscious pain and suffering of the deceased from the time of the injury until the time of the death. Then, the next of kin will have a claim for loss of support and a loss of relationship with the deceased.
There can also be a claim for punitive damages if the party at fault was guilty of a conscious disregard for the safety of the injured party. This comes into effect in cases where the person at fault is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or is driving in a reckless manner.
Punitive damages are an additional award in order to punish the at fault driver for his/her reckless actions.
What Are The Legal Requirements For Insurance?
In most states (including Illinois and Missouri) there are legal requirements for any driver to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. This is typically $20,000.00 or $25,000.00. These are the minimums.
If an injured party brings suit against a wrongdoer that has no insurance (which is against the law), the injured party can go after the defendant’s personal assets and make a claim for uninsured compensation against the injured party’s own carrier. For example, the injured party is driving a vehicle and he has insurance with liability limits of $100,000.00 and uninsured limits of $100,000.00. If a recovery is made against the wrongdoer who has no insurance, then a claim can be made against the injured party’s insurance company for up to $100,000.00.
If the at fault person does not have enough insurance, the injured party may have what is known as underinsured coverage on his own policy. For example, if the wrongdoer only had $20,000.00 and the injured party had $100,000.00 in coverage for underinsured coverage, then a claim can be made against the injured party’s own carrier for an additional $80,000.00.
What Should I Do If I Am In An Accident?
Obtain Medical Treatment Promptly. If you are injured, make sure the injury is treated immediately. Serious injuries can result in death if timely measures are not taken. If the injury is not life threatening, make sure that you inform the investigating police officer that you are injured. Many police officers will simply write in their police report that there is no injury if one does not speak up. If the report contains “no injury”, this can be used by a defense attorney to try and show that you were not injured and that you are now faking or exaggerating the injury. Make sure you cooperate with the police.
Be Compliant With Medical Treatment. This means do not delay medical treatment and do not miss any appointments. You have a duty to exercise ordinary care to obtain medical treatment. Insurance companies and ultimately jurors will blame you for ongoing injuries that go untreated, or which result from failing to follow your doctor’s orders (i.e., missing physical therapy appointments…) NO EXCUSES WILL BE ACCEPTED for failing to follow doctors’ orders – lack of transportation, sicknesses or other excuses will hurt you and your case. People that are truly injured get to the doctor. Treat regularly with medical providers and follow through on their instructions. Any missed appointments can be used against you to show that you were really not that injured, or that your ongoing symptoms are due to your own neglect of medical treatment.
Seek Legal Representation. This should be done in a timely manner. Do not give statements to adjusters for insurance companies without having your attorney present. It is the adjuster’s job to attempt to settle the case for the least amount of money possible. Many injured people are not knowledgeable concerning the process and sometimes are intimidated by adjusters when it comes to resolving claims. An experienced attorney can help you through this.
Contact Us If you need representation or have questions, please do not hesitate to contact WWF&G for a free consultation at (618) 462-1077 or (877) 993-4529. Our address is 603 Henry Street, Alton, Illinois 62002.