Auto Accidents


The most common personal injury case arises from an auto accident. A simple auto accident case is one where liability is clear - fault for the accident is not disputed - and the injuries suffered by the people involved are easily identified and explained. At least one physician who can explain that the injury resulted from the accident is critical, and significant body-damage to the vehicles helps persuade a jury of the severity of the collision.

However, often the facts are more complicated. The complex auto case may involve a plaintiff with pre-existing medical conditions, little damage to the vehicles, or a wide range of care providers. Few cases fall completely within the simple category, and most require thoughtful analysis toward developing a clear statement of the cause of the accident and your resulting damages.

Typically, recovering compensation for those damages, whether they be medical expenses, loss of wages, pain and suffering or permanent impairment, involves an auto insurance company. Auto insurance is required by state law in most states.

If you are injured in an auto accident in a state with "no-fault" insurance, an auto insurance policy should be in place to help you cover your medical bills, without regard to how the accident happened. "No-Fault" insurance provides personal injury protection ("PIP") benefits to persons injured in auto accidents. If you are involved in an auto accident, you should contact your insurance company, to make a claim for "PIP" benefits against your own "No-Fault" policy. "PIP" benefits must be paid promptly. The failure of your "No-Fault" insurance company to promptly pay reasonable and necessary "PIP" benefits could result in the insurance carrier being ordered to pay triple the amount due.

"PIP" benefits will not compensate you for pain and suffering, permanent impairment, or scarring and disfigurement, and the benefits usually only provide partial compensation for loss of income. To receive compensation for these damages, you must make a claim against the responsible driver for negligently causing the car accident. Then the damages will be paid from the driver's "liability coverage." If you are hurt seriously, then you may file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. Many states require that a "threshold" of medical expenses be incurred by the injured party before filing a lawsuit, reasoning that the severity of an injury is usually related to the amount of the medical expenses.

As with any personal injury matter, the ordinary rules of court apply, meaning that your attorney will need to prove negligence, by showing that the "rules of the road" were violated by the other driver, and as a result, you were hurt. Damages are proved up in the "old-fashioned" way, meaning that the jury must be shown your lost income, disability, pain and suffering, through the presenting of witnesses and exhibits.

The third type of insurance frequently required by law is called "Uninsured Motorist" coverage. "Uninsured Motorist" insurance protects you by allowing you to make a claim against your own insurance carrier if you are injured as a result of the negligence of a driver who had no "Liability" insurance. "Uninsured Motorist" coverage also provides protection if you are the victim of a "hit-and-run" accident.

A close cousin to "Uninsured Motorist" coverage is "Underinsured Motorist" coverage. Your insurance carrier is required to offer you the opportunity to purchase "Underinsured Motorist" coverage up to the limits of the amount of the "Liability" coverage that you have purchased. If you are seriously injured in an auto accident, and your medical expenses are very high, and the person who caused the accident had "Liability" limits lower than your "Underinsured Motorist" limits, you are entitled to make a claim against your own "Underinsured Motorist" coverage for the difference between that person's "Liability" limits and your "Underinsured Motorist" limits. "Underinsured Motorist" coverage is not required by law, however, given the high cost of medical expenses that can arise after only a moderately severe auto accident, it is prudent to purchase such coverage.