A lot of phone calls and initial consultations I receive from those who have been involved in a motor vehicle accident inquire as to how they can pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. As such, this article will provide a brief overview.
First and foremost, the injured person in a motor vehicle accident must prove that the other driver was negligent. The simplest way to explain negligence is that the driver failed to act in a reasonable manner. Easy ways to demonstrate negligence in the world of motor vehicle accidents is drinking and driving, texting while driving, speeding, etc. A very useful way to see whether or not the other driver was negligent is to get a copy of the crash report from the Department of Transportation. The crash report provides an abundance of useful information for the person’s auto accident case. If the person proves the other driver has demonstrated unreasonable behavior and they are injured in an auto accident, they have satisfied the first hurdle to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver.
Now that it’s been determined the other party was negligent, then the injured must satisfy one of the following thresholds: over $4,000 in medical expenses, suffering a permanent injury or disfigurement, or a disability of 60 days or more. First, regarding the medical expenses threshold, the $4,000 threshold excludes all imaging bills. As such, it’s important to understand that those expensive MRI’s are not calculated into the $4,000. Instead, it’s bills related to treatment such as surgery, physical therapy, doctor visits, etc.
Next, in regards to the permanent injury threshold, it’s a broad meaning. It essentially means that it’s an injury that the person will not fully recover and will continue to some degree throughout the person’s life. A common example I like to use is if the person injures their knee in an auto accident and results in limitations with that knee, such as lifting restrictions or no longer able to do certain activities like running or riding a bike, then that’s a permanent injury. It’s important to understand if an auto accident results in an injury that precludes the person from permanently performing certain activities that they were able to do prior to the accident, then that’s a permanent injury. When it comes to “permanent disfigurement”, the common example is scarring. As such, if an auto accident results in a scar, then that satisfies the permanent disfigurement requirement.
The last threshold is a disability of 60 days or more. Under this threshold, a disability is essentially where an accident precludes the person from certain activities for more than 60 days. Common examples of activities include missing time from work and/or the inability to perform household requirements around the house such as mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway, or cleaning around the house. It’s also important to understand that the 60 day requirement does not need to be consecutive, but is cumulative. So if the accident precludes you from work for a while, but then you are able to go back, only to be taken off work again, that is sufficient.
In the end, it’s important to understand that once you have proven the other driver was at fault for the accident, you only need to satisfy ONE of the requirements above. Doing so will allow you to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver. In the next article, I will give an overview of the types of benefits you can pursue against the at-fault driver.
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