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Home » California Car Accident Lawyers » Can I Sue After a Car Accident If I Was Not Hurt?

Can I Sue After a Car Accident If I Was Not Hurt?

When you’ve been in a car accident but feel that the insurance company’s settlement doesn’t cover your damages or lost income, you might consider a lawsuit as your next option. A car accident attorney can help you with the next steps if you’ve had difficulty obtaining payment for your claims, especially if the other driver was negligent and caused the accident. Even if you weren’t injured in your car accident, an experienced and compassionate attorney works alongside you to sort through your options.

What Are California Laws Regarding Car Accident Damages?

In California, personal injury victims can recover damages suffered when others are legally negligent. Like many other states, California divides damages into different categories, most commonly “economic damages” and “non-economic damages. The former category includes losses about specific economic losses such as:

  • Lost income
  • Vehicle replacement or repair expenses
  • Loss of property use
  • Loss of employment or earning capacity
  • Loss of business opportunities
  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses

On the other hand, non-economic damages are more challenging to calculate. For instance, severe emotional distress may require mental health care, and more debilitating cases may result in difficulty performing daily abilities and the temporary or permanent loss of income. These damages include:

  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Emotional distress or mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Loss of consortium, companionship or affection

Unlike many other states, California doesn’t require accident victims to have physical injuries to sue for emotional distress. Therefore, even if you are not physically injured in a car accident, you may still have the option to sue the liable party for emotional distress. California doesn’t limit these types of damages, although persons without auto insurance may not recover non-economic damages like emotional distress, regardless of fault.

What Types of Damages Can You Seek After an Accident?

Most lawsuits following car accidents involve property damage claims. In some cases, the insurance company fails to assign liability to the other party, while the company’s awarded damages aren’t sufficient in others.

Property Damages

Most of the time, the insurance company awards accident victims damages in one of two categories:

  • Repair Costs: Reimbursement for all expenses incurred due to the damage to the vehicle in the accident.
  • Replacement Costs: When repair costs exceed the vehicle’s value, the insurance company labels the car “totaled.” The insurance company should provide the replacement price of the vehicle at its current estimated worth. 

Transportation Expenses

While you wait for your vehicle repairs or replacement, you may need to rent a car or use ride-sharing services. The liable party is responsible for these expenses.

Lost Income 

You may have found it challenging to get to your workplace without a working vehicle, and you may be eligible for damages related to lost income. Accurate documentation, including communication with your employer and relevant paystubs, serves as evidence of missed or reduced income.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering don’t always refer to physical injury. Suffering, in particular, is a broader term that may encompass emotional distress or mental anguish, such as:

  • Insomnia or sleep difficulties
  • Fear or anxiety
  • Loss of pleasure or enjoyment of life
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What Is California’s Definition of Negligence?

The civil code of California clearly states, “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person.” In other words, “negligence” is an act (or failure to act) when you owe a duty to another person. California recognizes two main types of negligence.

California allows a plaintiff in a negligence case to demand a jury trial. The plaintiff must then provide a “preponderance of evidence,” meaning that you must prove the defendant’s actions were a substantial factor contributing to your injuries.

Ordinary Negligence

Five legal elements comprise proof of ordinary negligence, and a plaintiff must prove all five to win a legal case:

  1. The defendant had a duty to the plaintiff to either execute an act or abstain from engaging in an activity.
  2. The defendant breached this duty.
  3. The defendant’s violation of duty caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
  4. The defendant should have anticipated the risks of their action or inaction.
  5. The plaintiff suffered objective damages from the accident.

By way of example, California’s speed limits require all those who use public roads to attend to their duty to other users. If a driver was driving over the speed limit at the time of an accident, they might be liable for negligence per se in an accident. The plaintiff may submit evidence of negligence per se to a jury for determination of ordinary negligence and whether the defendant’s misconduct was the cause of the harm.

Doctrine of Contribution

In some situations, the law may automatically impose liability on the defendant. These cases involve certain hazardous situations, such as abnormally dangerous activities, defective products, and wild and dangerous animals.

Similarly, the court may hold an employer vicariously liable for negligence on the part of employees acting within the “scope of employment.” For instance, the employer of delivery drivers involved in car accidents while making deliveries may be liable for damages.

What Are the Alternatives to Lawsuits?

When you work with your attorney during the pre-trial process, you may consider several other options for achieving a satisfactory settlement of your claim. Choosing one of these options may save time and money, not to mention avoid the stress of an extended lawsuit experience in court.

  • Consumer Complaints: Contacting your state insurance department may push the insurance company to pay for the claims, as the company needs to comply with licensing requirements and fair play rules.
  • Arbitration: You and your attorney will make a pre-meeting agreement to work with an impartial arbitrator who works with both parties. The arbitrator, like a judge, makes a final, binding decision to resolve the dispute.
  • Mediation: Both parties in the dispute meet with a trained mediator who guides all sides toward a voluntary agreement.

What Is the Lawsuit Process?

When alternative paths fail, and you decide to move to file a lawsuit, you and your attorney will consider the amount of damages you seek, your time limits, and the level of aggression you want to bring to the fight. From there, you have two primary options for lawsuits. Small claims court is a reasonable option for more minor claims, typically $5,000 or less. In California, individual claimants may seek up to $10,000, but organizations are limited to $5,000.

For a regular lawsuit in civil court, you need a professional attorney experienced in car accident claims. During the pre-trial phase, your lawyer will conduct “discover” procedures to exchange information with the defendant’s legal team. Claimants file civil court lawsuits in the state where the accident occurred. It’s a slow process but may lead to more significant damage recovery.

How JAG Can Help After Your Car Accident

If you’ve been involved in a car accident, whether or not you’ve sustained physical injuries, JAG can help you obtain the compensation you’re due. We want to help you navigate the complexities of California law and seek the justice you deserve after your challenging experience, so reach out to us today.

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