Every year, there are over 6 million car accidents in the US. They range from small bumps to serious vehicle-ruining crashes, and no matter which type you’re in, it’s sure to shake you up.
In addition to mental and physical effects, there are also legal consequences resulting from vehicular collisions. And if you’re not aware of them, then other parties might take advantage of you.
Read on to learn six key facts about car accidents, so you’re better informed and know your rights.
“Liability” is a term referring to the legal responsibility for damages and injuries resulting from a car accident. It essentially assigns blame to the driver who caused the crash; it can also be multiple drivers in some cases. They’re the ones who are financially responsible for things like property damage, medical expenses, and other losses.
Factors that determine liability include:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving
It sounds simple, but liability can become a complicated matter since traffic laws vary between states. For instance, Virginia has some of the strictest driving laws in the nation. So what may make you liable in that state may not apply in California or even West Virginia.
Things can become even more complicated if you’ve had an accident in a state you’re not familiar with. If you’re originally from North Carolina but go up north, then car accident attorneys in the Virginia Beach area can help you make sense of the different traffic laws. It may turn out that you’re not liable for the crash after all.
Comparative negligence is similar to liability. The main differences are that only some states have comparative negligence and it’s applied to several people instead of an individual. If you’ve had a car crash in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, or Virginia, then this rule may apply.
Instead of assigning everyone equal fault for the accident, it divides the responsibility into percentages. The involved parties will present evidence in court, and the drivers are given a percentage of fault.
For example, if one driver was texting while driving and the other was speeding, then the court might determine that the former was 30% at fault and the latter was 70% at fault. This means that the first driver is only responsible for 30% of the damages, and the other is responsible for 70%.
This system works out better in many cases because some states have pure contributory negligence rules. This means that if you’re even 1% at fault, you won’t receive any compensation.
The amount of evidence you have from a collision can make all the difference in your case. It can either confirm who’s at fault or clear them. This is why it’s vital to collect evidence immediately after the crash (if you’re not suffering from serious injuries).
Some important things to get include:
- Witness statements
- Police reports
After the accident, you should keep all medical records. It’ll prove that your injuries are real and can help determine how much you’re compensated for your suffering, treatments (such as physical therapy), and time needed off work.
You can also get expert testimony at your hearing. Professionals such as medical experts and accident reconstruction specialists can verify and establish liability.
In most states, you’re required by law to have car insurance if you’re a driver. This is to protect you financially if you’re in an accident, regardless of who’s at fault.
The two main types of car insurance are liability and collision insurance. Liability insurance covers other parties’ damage and injuries, while collision insurance covers damages to your own car.
Like with traffic laws, states have their own minimum requirements for car insurance. For example, you might be required to have uninsured motorist coverage on top of the other two types.
Regardless, it’s your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the details of your policies. Even though they’re there to protect you, insurance companies are notorious for not paying out, or paying less than what you deserve. In this case, car accident lawyers can help you receive fair compensation.
Unfortunately, some car accidents can lead to criminal charges. If anyone involved was breaking the law at the time of the crash, then they might have charges filed against them.
The most common criminal charges seen are:
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Reckless driving
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Hit and run
Depending on the charge and where the accident happened, the accused can face anything from a fine to imprisonment. These things will give you a criminal record, which can then make employment more difficult in the future.
In addition, the guilty party may have to pay compensation to victims and/or their loved ones.
Statute of Limitations
You shouldn’t hesitate in filing a claim if you’re in a car accident. There are statutes of limitations, which are time limits for when you can file.
In general, you’ll have between one to six years. But check with your state, as they’ll differ. Don’t dawdle, because if you file after the statute of limitations has passed, you won’t get compensation.
Other things that have time limits include car insurance claims and notices of a lawsuit. Consult with an experienced lawyer on these, as the deadlines will depend on which state the accident was in and the specific circumstances surrounding it.
Time is of the essence, so don’t wait to get things in motion.
Know Your Rights if You’re in a Car Crash
A car crash can be scary, and no one ever wants to be in one. Not only can you get injured, but you might also lose your sole mode of transportation too.
But if you’re educated and prepared for the worst, then hopefully, it won’t be as big a shock if you’re in a collision. And because you know the legal aspects surrounding a crash, you’ll know your rights, and it’ll be harder for people to take advantage of you.
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