The aftermath of a car accident is a stressful and confusing time.
One of the most commonly asked questions after an accident is should I file a car accident lawsuit?
If the car accident was minor, with no injuries and little to no property damage, you may be able to settle the case on your own with the insurance companies.
However, if anyone was injured or killed, or if there was significant property damage involved in the accident, it is in your best interest to hire a personal injury attorney and file a lawsuit.
At Tawney, Acosta & Chaparro P.C., our expert personal injury attorneys can review your case and advise you.
For now: should you consider filing a lawsuit after a car accident?
A Minor Car Accident May Not Have Insurance Coverage
If the car accident is minor, it may make sense not to file a lawsuit. Minor means that no one was injured and the property damage to the cars is less than $500.
The insurance companies will usually handle a small accident like this with few to no issues. However, if anyone suffers an injury, however minor, or the property damage exceeds $500, you should consider filing a lawsuit.
In addition, if the car accident is minor but the other driver does not have insurance, you should also consider filing a lawsuit to recover damages.
In New Mexico, it is estimated that up to one-quarter of drivers on the road are uninsured. So, there is a 25 percent chance that the other person involved does not have the insurance. This means that they cannot cover the cost of the accident.
Car Accidents with Injuries or Significant Property Damage
If you are involved in an accident with injuries or significant property damage you should seriously consider filing a lawsuit for damages.
New Mexico mandatory minimum insurance requirements are:
- $25,000 for bodily injury for one person,
- $50,000 for bodily injury to two or more people, and
- $10,000 for property damage in any one accident.
If you believe that your total damages may exceed the minimum requirements, you need to file a lawsuit to recover the rest of the compensation you are owed.
Insurers are Not on Your Side
It is important to remember that the insurance companies, even your own, are not on your side when it comes to a car accident.
Immediately after an accident, insurance companies are starting their own investigation into the accident They will try to find any reason to offer less for the damages you have suffered as a result of the accident. They may even try to contact you for a statement on the accident, hoping that you might say something against your best interests.
Filing a lawsuit with an attorney stops all of these attempts by the insurance companies.
After filing a lawsuit, a lawyer handles all communications and negotiations with the insurers and other parties involved in the accident.
A lawyer will open their own investigation into the accident, gathering evidence that best supports your claims for restitution. They negotiate a full and fair settlement for your claims, and if compensation is not agreed upon, they will take the case to trial.
Compensation for Car Accidents
If you decide to file a lawsuit, compensation for a car accident can include economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are for out-of-pocket physical costs, which includes the following:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning potential
- Property damage
Non-economic damages are for the less tangible, but still significant, harms caused by a car accident. For minor accidents settled without a lawsuit, these damages are usually not considered in the overall award by the insurance companies. Non-economic damages can include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
It is also important to note that New Mexico operates as a pure comparative negligence state. This means that the court determines the degree of fault for each party involved in the accident and reduces the total award of compensation by that percentage.
For example, if you were awarded $100,000 in damages for a car accident but found 25 percent at fault, the total award would be reduced to $75,000.
If you believe that you might be found even a single percent at fault for the car accident, it is in your best interest to file a lawsuit to protect your claims.
A lawyer can build the best arguments for compensation and mitigate any claims of responsibility for the accident. In addition, non-economic damages can be considered in the overall award, which are not typically considered by the insurers in claims that are settled without a lawsuit involved.
Time Limits to File a Lawsuit
If you decide to file a lawsuit after a car accident, it is important to remember that you only have a small window of time after the accident in which to sue.
Under New Mexico law, a person injured in a car accident only has three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury damages. Known as the statute of limitations, any lawsuit filed after that date will be thrown out, and you lose the chance to recover damages for your injuries.
The same applies to family members who wish to file a lawsuit for wrongful death after a car accident that results in a fatality. You should consider hiring a personal injury attorney with experience in car accidents cases who knows the law and understands how to navigate the legal process of car accident lawsuits.
Contact A Lawyer Now
If you were involved in a car accident in the Las Cruces area and are wondering whether you should file a lawsuit for damages, our experienced personal injury attorneys may be able to help.