If you have been injured in a car, you may wonder whether you should accept an insurance settlement or try to file a car accident civil suit to potentially recover more damages. The answer to this depends on where you live, the nature of your injuries, and the settlement the insurance company offers.
When to File a Car Accident Civil Suit
In some states, you are limited as far as when you can file a car accident civil suit. Twelve states in the US are "no fault" states, which means that the system is designed to make sure everyone gets proper medical care after a car accident, regardless of fault. To that end, each driver has to purchase his own personal injury protection (PIP) and each driver must get his damages from his insurer under that coverage, no matter who caused the accident. In these states, you cannot file a civil suit for a car accident injury unless your injuries are "severe" or "serious."
Each of the twelve no fault states has different rules or thresholds for when you can file a civil suit for a car accident injury. In general, however, the injuries must be more serious than those that could be compensated by your own insurer. For example, death is often a serious injury that allows the victim's family to file a civil suit for a car accident injury in a no fault state. Permanent disfigurement, loss of a limb or loss of function of an organ, or permanent disability are other "serious" injuries that allow for a lawsuit.
If you don't live in a no fault state, you may want to file a car accident civil suit if you feel the insurance company of the responsible driver is not making a fair settlement offer. You are entitled to recover for your damages including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and sometimes for your emotional distress or punitive damages to punish the defendant if he acted willfully or egregiously. In these states, you get to choose when you want to sue and when your injuries are serious enough to make a lawsuit worthwhile.
Getting Legal Help
Whether you live in a no fault state and suffer serious injuries or you live in a pure fault state and have the right to sue for any car accident, consulting with a car accident attorney can be helpful in deciding when to file a car accident civil suit. A car accident lawyer is generally an expert in the types of settlements that a person should expect to receive for various accidents and can help you to determine if an offer is fair or if you should sue to try to collect more.