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Can I Sue After a Car Accident If I Was Not Hurt?

If you become involved in a car crash, a lot can go wrong. Whether you suffered injuries as the driver or passenger, you may become entitled to compensation. Note that hurt manifests itself in different ways. For example, someone could survive a serious car crash with minor physical injuries but a lifetime of PTSD. Can you sue after a car crash if you didn’t suffer any serious injuries, though? Let’s consider this from several different angles.

Physical Harm Is Not the Only Reason for Litigation

When most people think of personal injury cases, they envision physically injured persons seeking compensation for medical bills. However, there are other reasons to go to court after a car crash.

Wrongful Death

Sadly, not everyone survives the injuries caused by car crashes. In the worst-case scenario, the deceased persons might include parents of young children or the children themselves. Family members may bring a wrongful death case to court against the negligent parties. State laws determine which family members are eligible for filing wrongful death cases.

Property Damage

While the driver and passengers could escape with barely a scratch, the vehicle itself could be totaled. Sometimes insurance companies try to low-ball owners into accepting less than the vehicle’s market value, which could make it almost impossible to buy a replacement.

In some cases, property damage may also include personal items inside the car. If the at-fault driver crashed on your property, damage to the property may also prompt the need for a suit. For example, if a drunk driver crashed into the living room of a home after everyone had gone to bed, the insurance company may still need to pay for repairing the home.

Lost Wages

It has become increasingly common for people to use their personal vehicles to earn a living. In some cases, they become so successful at this that they are able to quit their other jobs. If someone crashes into such a vehicle and renders it undrivable, this could result in lost wages. Examples include:

  • Uber and Lyft drivers
  • Amazon Flex package delivery drivers
  • Turo car rental providers
  • Food delivery drivers working for established platforms, such as DoorDash
  • Traveling salespersons who drive their personal vehicles
  • Contractors who use their personal vehicles for work

Emotional Distress

Few people would disagree that serious car crashes can cause PTSD and other forms of emotional and psychological harm. Even so, this is often the most difficult injury to prove. It requires extensive documentation of the person’s mental health and proof of the level of impact it had on the person’s day-to-day life.

Products Liability

In some instances, a car crash case can turn into a fight against the manufacturer. One well-known example occurred in the 1970s when a family won almost $130 million in damages against Ford, though the trial judge later reduced it to $3.5 million. 

This case involved a Ford Pinto bursting into flames after a rear-end impact. The driver of the vehicle died and the passenger suffered burns over 90% of his body. The family filed a wrongful death case on behalf of the deceased driver and a personal injury case on behalf of the injured minor.

Bad Faith Insurance

After a car crash, insurance companies sometimes deny claims, even though the person paid for coverage and he or she is not at fault. For example, a woman might pay for uninsured and underinsured coverage but the insurance company refuses to pay for damages after a teenager crashes into her car.

This could prompt a bad faith insurance suit to hold the company accountable for its responsibilities to its policyholders. Insurance companies often try to settle these cases privately because they secretly acknowledge they have no sound reasons to deny the claims that could hold up in court.

Parties Aside From the At-Fault Driver May Sue

You might feel certain that you did not cause the accident and the other person is to blame. However, car crash footage, police records and the insurance companies make the final decision. In some cases, you or your attorney might be able to appeal this decision, but it could be difficult. Whatever the end result, legally identifying the at-fault driver ultimately determines whether someone can sue and who that person is.

Note that, in some states, an at-fault driver might technically not exist. In these no-fault states, drivers may make claims against their own insurance policies in the event of a car crash, regardless of which driver is actually at fault. No-fault insurance states generally have some restrictions on when drivers can bring personal injury lawsuits to court. 

Currently, Puerto Rico and 12 U.S. states fall into this category. These states include Florida, New York, Kentucky and Utah. Some states, such as Texas, also allow no-fault personal injury protection as an add-on.

Comparative Fault Could Pose Complications

Some states allow the attribution of some fault to personal injury victims, but they still allow the case to go to court. In the event that the person wins the case, the final award becomes discounted by the percentage of fault attributed to that person.

Example: Candace drives an older vehicle that requires her to manually turn her lights on and off. One evening, while driving down a well-lit street, she forgets to turn her headlights on, which also means her tail lights are off. She stops at a stop sign and is rear-ended seconds later by a speeding driver who meant to blow through the stop sign. He claims he did not see her because her tail lights were off and he has dashcam footage to prove this. The court assigns 10% of the blame to her. The court awards a settlement of $400,000 for backpain and emotional distress caused by the accident. After applying the 10% comparative negligence, she receives $360,000.

Some states have a pure comparative negligence rule. This means that injured parties may sue regardless of the level of fault but may see the final value discounted by the attributed percentage of fault. In modified comparative fault states, such as Texas and Utah, there is a cut-off point when the case may no longer go to trial. Generally speaking, in these states, the injured person must hold less than 50% of the blame for the incident leading to their injuries.

Example: Bruce had too much to drink one Friday night. While walking home, he decides to take a shortcut across a rural highway. He blacks out on the way across and falls into the street. An approaching driver sees him at the last minute and slams on the brakes, but he still hits Bruce at considerable speed. Bruce survives the incident and receives 90% of the blame. The case may not go to trial in his modified comparative negligence state, because the accident is primarily his fault. However, he may become eligible for disability benefits.

Fielding Law Can Review the Strength of Your Case

At Fielding Law, we primarily serve clients from Utah, Texas and Idaho. Our experienced attorneys know how to handle stubborn insurance companies and will not hesitate to battle it out in court for you. We provide a free case evaluation to start. In fact, unless we win your case, you don’t owe us anything. Get started with our team today. You have nothing to lose and fair compensation to gain.