After any kind of traffic accident in Utah, if you’ve been injured or had your vehicle damaged, you probably want to understand your options for getting compensation. Utah is a no-fault car insurance state. That means, after a car accident, you typically need to file a claim under your own personal injury protection coverage to get compensation for medical bills and other financial losses, regardless of who caused the crash. Only if your injury claim meets certain prerequisites can you step outside of no-fault and bring a claim directly against the at-fault driver.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations In Salt Lake City Utah
A “statute of limitations” is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court. The statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver’s, is going to require you to make a claim or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim “promptly” or “within a reasonable time” after the accident. That usually means a few days at most. In Utah, there are a few different lawsuit filing deadlines that could come into play after a vehicle accident. First, for car accident injuries, Utah gives you four years to ask Utah’s civil court system for a remedy. So, in the context of a car accident, any injury claim filed by a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, electric scooter rider, or pedestrian will be subject to this deadline, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the accident. If anyone was killed as a result of the car accident, Utah sets a two-year statute of limitations deadline for any wrongful death claim that might be brought by the deceased person’s family or representatives. And it’s important to keep in mind that for these kinds of claims, the two-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident victim’s death (as opposed to the date of the accident itself). Finally, if anyone had their vehicle or other property damaged as a result of a car accident, Utah Code section 78B-2-305 says that any lawsuit over that damage must be filed within three years of the date of the vehicle accident. Whichever of these deadlines applies, if you try to file your car accident lawsuit after the applicable time limit has passed, you can count on the defendant (the person you’re trying to sue) pointing out that discrepancy to the court as part of a motion to dismiss. The court will almost certainly grant the motion (unless some rare exception applies to extend the filing deadline), and that will be the end of your case. That’s why it’s crucial to understand how the statute of applies to your situation. Even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you’ll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the filing deadline, you may want to contact an experienced Utah car accident attorney.
Comparative Negligence in Utah Car Accident Cases
Suppose you’re seriously injured in a Utah car accident, and you take your case to court. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, decides that the other driver was responsible for the accident but that you too bear part of the blame. Under Utah Code section 78B-5-818, Utah is a “modified comparative negligence” state. This means you can still recover damages in a car-accident-related lawsuit, but your award will be reduced according to your share of negligence and importantly, your share of liability must be less than 50 percent in order to recover from other at-fault parties. For instance, suppose that the jury determines that your injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses total $20,000. However, the jury also thinks that you were 10 percent responsible for the crash. In that situation, the total amount of your damages, $20,000, is reduced by 10 percent, or $2,000, leaving you with a total award of $18,000. The comparative negligence rule binds Utah judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), and it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. Also keep in mind that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.
Reporting a Car Accident in Salt Lake City, Utah
Under Utah Code section 41-6a-401.7, the drivers involved in an accident “shall immediately and by the quickest means of communication available” (i.e. a phone call from the scene) give notice of the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency. The Utah Department of Public Safety may also ask the drivers involved in the crash to prepare a traffic accident report. If so, the report must be filed with the department within 10 days of the request. Utah is one of a dozen or so states that follow a no-fault car insurance scheme. That means injured drivers and passengers must typically turn first to their own personal-injury-protection car insurance coverage to get compensation for medical bills, lost income, and other out-of-pocket losses after a crash, regardless of who might have been at fault. A claim against the at-fault driver is only possible in certain scenarios.
Steps To Reach Settlement In A Personal Injury Case
A settlement is an agreement between an injured person and an insurance company or person responsible for causing the injury by which the responsible person/insurance company agrees to pay a sum of money and the injured person agrees to accept the offer. A settlement is reached through the process of negotiation.
In general, an injured person will make a demand for a sum of money, and in response, the responsible party/insurance company will make an offer to pay a lesser amount of money. Through the process of negotiation with an experienced accident lawyer, the injured party gradually reduces their demand and the responsible party/insurance company gradually increases their offer. A settlement is reached if the responsible party/insurance company agrees to pay a sum of money, which the injured party is willing to accept. When a settlement is accepted the responsible party/insurance company issues a settlement check in exchange for a Release. A Release is basically a contract by which the responsible party/insurance company agrees to pay a certain sum of money to the injured party and the injured party agrees to make no further claim against the responsible party/insurance company. When a settlement is rejected a lawsuit is commenced, or if a lawsuit is already pending when the offer is made, the decision is made to continue the case to a jury trial. At a trial, the jury will determine what amount the responsible party/insurance company must pay to compensate the injured person and the injured person must accept the amount as determined by the jury. An attorney helps with this process by first evaluating the manner in which an individual was injured, in other words, considering who was at fault in causing the injury. An attorney will also work with treating physicians to obtain medical reports accurately documenting the injured party’s condition. An attorney will then also determine what effects an injury will have on an individual, including medical expenses that may be incurred in the future. An evaluation will also be made as to the effect injuries have on an individual’s ability to return to their prior employment or earn other income. An attorney will analyze settlement offers in comparison to what a jury would likely award at trial. This analysis is based on the attorney’s experience with prior settlements and verdicts of similar personal injury cases.
Resolution Before Trial
The majority of legal claims arising from accidents or injuries do not reach a civil court trial. Typically, they are resolved earlier in the litigation process through a negotiated settlement among the parties. Sometimes an informal settlement can take place before any lawsuit is even filed. Through settlement, the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) agrees to give up the right to pursue any further legal action in connection with the accident or injury, in exchange for payment of an agreed-upon sum of money from the defendant or an insurance company. In rare cases, instead of paying money, the defendant will agree to perform or stop performing a certain action. If you are thinking about settling a legal claim after an accident or injury, or if you have received a settlement offer from the opposing side, you may want to talk to an attorney. It’s important to get his or her thorough assessment of the case and opinion about the likelihood of settlement. When meeting with your attorney you should consider and discuss the following points:
Strength of the Case
• Jury verdicts and settlement outcomes in similar cases;
• Your chances of winning at trial;
• Practical difficulties in trying the case;
• Strengths and weaknesses in your evidence; and
• Strength and weaknesses in your opponent’s evidence.
Money and Damages
• What your attorney thinks the case may be worth in a range of dollar amounts and what he or she thinks you could receive in damages at trial;
• The minimum amount you will accept to end the case and avoid trial;
• The policy limits of the defendant’s insurance coverage; and
• The defendant’s own monetary resources.
Questions for the Plaintiff
• How much of the settlement proceeds will be applied to your lawyer’s fee and your expenses. In most personal injury cases, the attorney is paid with contingency fees meaning that you do not have to pay attorney’s fee unless you are successful at trial or there is a settlement in your favor;
• How the settlement payments will affect your federal and state income taxes. Most settlements are considered taxable income that must be reported on your tax returns. The percentage you pay depends on the circumstances of your case;
• Consider what you’re willing to give up in order to get the case settled. Usually, there must be some give and take on the part of the plaintiff and defendant to negotiate a settlement that both sides will accept;
• Think about the possibility of a partial settlement. In other words, settle the easy issues first while you continue to negotiate the more difficult ones; and
• Decide whether you are willing to accept a remedy other than money;
• Unfavorable publicity for either side. Generally, civil court trials are open to the public, which allows for media coverage and scrutiny;
• The amount of personal information that could be revealed at trial or through further discovery;
• Possible disclosure of business information or trade secrets;
• When the case is likely to be called for trial and the estimated length of the trial;
• The opposing lawyer’s negotiation tactics. Your lawyer may have negotiated with the opposing lawyer before, or has talked to other lawyers to get an idea of what to expect; and
• The extent to which your opponent is likely to play “hardball” and be unwilling to negotiate.
Lawyer Investigates Claim and Reviews Medical Records
One of the first things your lawyer will do is interview you. The lawyer wants to know everything you know about the accident, your injuries, and your medical treatment. Lawyers don’t want to be surprised, so make sure to answer all questions as completely as you can. Next, the lawyer will get all of your medical records and bills relating to the injury and will probably also get your medical records for any treatment you have ever had relating to the condition at issue in the case. This can take months.
When A Personal Injury Lawsuit is Filed
The litigation phase starts when you and your lawyer file a personal injury lawsuit in court. The filing of the lawsuit starts the clock running on when the case might get to trial. Every state’s pretrial procedures are different, but generally it will take one to two years for a personal injury case to get to trial. Keep in mind that a lawsuit needs to be filed within strict time limits that every state has set in a law called a statute of limitations.
Mediation and Negotiations
As the discovery period ends, the lawyers will generally start talking settlement. Sometimes the lawyers can settle just by talking among themselves, but, in other cases, they will go to mediation, a process in which both clients and both lawyers get help from a neutral third party mediator to try to resolve the case.
Personal Injury Trials
Mediation often works, but if it doesn’t, the case is scheduled for trial. A personal injury trial can last a day, a week, or even longer. The length may be increased because, in many states, trials are held for only half a day instead of over a full day. That doubles the length of a trial, but also lets the lawyers and judges get other things done in the afternoon. One important thing to know about trials is that just because a lawsuit is scheduled for trial does not mean the trial will actually occur on that date. Trials often get pushed because of the judge’s schedule. If your trial gets moved, you should not automatically assume that something unfavorable is happening. Trials are delayed all the time, and for the most innocuous of reasons. For details on this stage of the process in the context of one of the most common types of injury cases, learn what happens when a car accident case goes to trial.
Various Causes Of Car Accidents In Salt Lake City, Utah And How They Cause Harm
Being involved in a car accident can have an enormous impact on a victim’s life. This is especially true in cases which result in physical injuries. Individuals who sustain injuries in car accidents often face extensive medical treatment, which is typically followed by rehabilitation and therapy. Not only do car accidents cause serious physical and emotional pain, but they can have a devastating impact on a victim’s financial security. Individuals who are involved in car accidents are often forced out of work to deal with their injuries and recovery. During this time, the amount of money they are charged for their treatments continues to increase. Unfortunately, there are many car insurance companies that go after victims and offer them a quick financial settlement in exchange for them waiving away their legal rights to file personal injury lawsuits in the future. Quite often, accident victims sign for these settlements simply because they are desperate to take care of their financial obligations. Sadly, accident victims have several questions after being involved in an accident that goes unanswered. Before signing anything, it is imperative for accident victims to consult with an experienced attorney who is willing to represent their best interest in the Utah court system.
Fault In Automobile Accidents
Determining fault is often a critical part of determining whether a personal injury lawsuit can be filed; along with against whom it is filed. Knowing the exact cause of the car accident can be directly related to who is at fault, as well as the severity of injuries sustained, can have a major impact on your ability to obtain compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Unfortunately, no matter how precautious a person is before going out on the roadway, they cannot be 100% safe from being involved in a car accident. There are various factors that can contribute to a car crash happening.
Drivers Who Are Under the Influence
A large percentage of car accidents in Salt Lake City, Utah are caused by individuals driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These accidents cause thousands of injuries each year to innocent drivers, passengers, and pedestrians along roadways. Individuals who drive while impaired often have problems seeing the roads clear and making sound decisions. When alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, a person’s vision becomes blurred and their reflexes become dulled, causing drivers to lose focus on the road, their surroundings, and their speeds, and subsequently cause horrific accidents. Drivers who are under the influence often speed without realizing it and lose control of their vehicles. This can cause head-on collisions and other serious accidents resulting in head or spinal cord injuries.
Distracted Drivers And Why It Is Important To Contact Accident Lawyer Immediately
Proving the cause of an accident is not as easy as you would like to believe. It is quite difficult for injured drivers to navigate the legal system alone. Thus, it is imperative to contact a car accident attorney immediately to protect your legal rights. Working with an experienced attorney will ensure you can collect fair and full compensation for your injuries and damages. Reputable and knowledgeable attorneys will help you navigate the legal system by investigating your crash and utilize resources that will help prove who is at fault for your accident. Once the reason for your accident has been determined, you can begin filing a personal injury claim against the driver to obtain repayment and justice.
Salt Lake City Car Accident Lawyer
When you need legal help with a car accident, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506