Rob is driving through a mall parking lot in New Haven when he is hit broadside by another driver. There were no line markings or any other indication as to who had the right of way.
Rob feels immediate neck and back pain as soon as the collision occurs. He and the other driver exchange information, and Rob drives himself to the hospital. (Learn more: Steps to Take After a Car Accident.)
The ER doctor tells Rob that it is probably just a sprain, and that he should rest for a few days. But the pain doesn’t subside, so Rob sees his family doctor.
The family doctor orders x-rays, which looked suspicious, and so she refers Rob to an orthopedist. The orthopedist sends Rob for an MRI, which shows a herniated cervical disc. He recommends conservative treatment of pain medication and physical therapy to see if Rob’s condition will improve. Surgery is a last resort. Rob agrees, and begins a program of physical therapy.
After eight months, Rob is feeling about 70% better. The orthopedist says that Rob will never be 100% again, but thinks that Rob can get to about 90% recovered within another six to eight months. Rob is an IT specialist. He stayed out of work for three weeks, and then returned close to full time, working through the pain.
Rob needs to be aware of the statute of limitations in Connecticut, which is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit.
In Connecticut, the statute of limitations for lawsuits stemming from car accidents is two years, whether the lawsuit is over injuries, vehicle damage, or both. So, if you are involved in a car accident as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in the state’s court system.
If you don't get your lawsuit filed in those two years, you'll almost certainly lose your right to file it at all. If you can’t settle your case well before the two-year window closes, it may be time to contact a Connecticut car accident lawyer. (Learn more about Car Accidents and the Lawsuit Process.)
You want to make sure that the insurance adjuster has all of the medical and financial documentation that supports your claim for damages. You also want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the information necessary to evaluate who was at fault for the accident.
The issue of car accident fault is especially important in a case like Rob’s, where proving liability may be difficult because of the lack of traffic control in the parking lot. Accordingly, Rob needs to be aware of the rules of comparative negligence because the person that hit him could claim that Rob was negligent for not stopping to let the other driver pass.
Connecticut follows what is called a “modified comparative fault” rule. Under this rule, your total damages award is reduced by whatever percentage of the “fault” the judge or jury believes is yours, up to a certain point. If, for example, you were awarded $200,000 in damages, but were found 30% at fault, your damages would be reduced to $140,000. However, if you were found to be 50% or more at fault, you would receive no damages whatsoever.
In order to maximize your potential recovery, you want to make absolutely sure that the defendant’s adjuster knows that you did nothing wrong. (Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
In Rob’s case, his out-of-pocket (compensatory) damages total $41,000. The breakdown looks like this:
Rob and his attorney decide that another $125,000 in damages is appropriate to compensate for Rob’s pain and suffering in connection with the accident, and they make an initial demand of $150,000 to settle the claim.
The defendant only has $100,000 of liability insurance, and so, after negotiating with the insurance adjuster, Rob accepts the policy limits of $100,000 as a final settlement. Rob carries his own underinsured driver insurance, but chooses not to pursue an underinsured claim.
As mentioned above, you want to settle your claim or file a lawsuit (or at least turn the case over to a lawyer) well before the two-year statute of limitations time period runs out. But you also don’t want to settle it too early -- meaning before you are either fully recovered or are as good as you are going to get. This is known as reaching "maximum medical improvement" or MMI.
In Rob’s case, he was close to MMI, and so he was ready to settle. Learn more about Settling a Car Accident Case.
(It's important to note that the other driver may carry only the minimum amount of liability insurance required under Connecticut’s car insurance laws. If your medical bills and other damages exceed those minimums, but the other driver carries no additional coverage, then an insurance settlement may not cover your losses. In that situation, you may want to talk to an attorney about your other options.)