When can you sue for bodily injury after a car accident?
Generally speaking, you can sue for bodily injury after a car accident as long as you don’t live in one of the dozen or so states that follow a no-fault car insurance system.
In a no-fault state, after a car accident you turn to your own car insurance coverage for payment of most medical bills and lost wages (up to certain caps) stemming from the crash, regardless of who was at fault. You might also be able to step outside the confines of the no-fault system and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, but you’ll need to meet a specific threshold for doing so -- either a certain dollar amount in medical bills (i.e. $5,000) or injuries that are deemed “serious” or “permanent,” depending on the law in your state.
Learn more: No-Fault States with Monetary Thresholds and No-Fault States with ‘Serious Injury Thresholds.
But, even if you don’t live in one of the no-fault states and you are free to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, that doesn’t mean a lawsuit should be your first move. In the vast majority of car accident cases, your compensation for injuries, vehicle damage, and other losses will end up being paid out by a car insurance company. And after most car accidents (especially more minor ones), that compensation will come via a settlement agreement before a lawsuit even needs to be filed.
So, after a car accident your best first step will probably be to file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s car insurance carrier (this is known as a third-party claim), or proceed with a claim under your own insurance coverage (in that case, your own insurer will later turn around and seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurer).
If you do choose to pursue a lawsuit over a car accident (perhaps settlement talks have broken down), you need to be aware of state laws that set a deadline on the amount of time you have to go to court and get the suit filed. Learn more about the statute of limitations in car accident cases.