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.
Utah SUV Accident Statute of Limitations
A “statute of limitations” is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court.
(Note: 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. Learn more about contacting your car insurance company after an accident.) 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 Code section 78B-2-307 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 Code section 78B-2-304 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.
Utah SUV 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. What happens next? How does this verdict affect your right to compensation? 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 an SUV Accident in 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 No-Fault SUV Insurance Rules
As touched on above, 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. Get the details on the Utah no-fault car insurance rules.
Negligence Versus No-Fault States
Liability in car accidents is always based on negligence (i.e., fault) unless you are in a no-fault state, in which case there are some limited exceptions to the negligence rule. In a traditional fault state, you must always prove that the other driver was negligent in order to get any type of damages from that driver or from his/her insurer. However, in a no-fault state, if you are involved in an accident, your own car insurance company will likely pay for some or even all of your damages, depending on your states laws. But in some no-fault states, no-fault coverage does not apply to vehicle damage, so make sure you understand the rules where you live. In any State, the Insurer Will Only Pay Up to Policy Limits Regardless of whether your accident occurred in a no-fault state or a traditional fault-based state, the responsible insurance company will only pay for your vehicle damage up to its policy limits. For example, if you are in a traditional fault state, the other driver was at fault and caused $10,000 of vehicle damage to your car, but he/she only has $5,000 of property damage coverage, his/her insurer will only pay $5,000 toward your repair costs.
What If Repair Costs Exceed the Value of My Car?
An insurer is only required to pay damages up to the value of your car. If your repair costs exceed the value of your car, the insurer will often declare your car a total loss, pay you the fair market (Blue Book) value of your car (also known as “actual cash value”), and take your car. Remember that with any type of property damage claim, the amount of the claim is based on the value of the property at the time of the accident. The value of the claim has nothing to do with how much you originally paid for the property.
Collision coverage ensures that you will be reimbursed for your vehicle damage if the other driver did not have enough insurance, or if you were at fault for the accident. If the other driver was at fault and had enough insurance coverage, you would not make a claim against your own insurance policy’s collision coverage. Comprehensive coverage is for vehicle damage that occurs when a car is parked at the time of the accident. Comprehensive coverage covers both car accidents and miscellaneous damage like trees falling on your car. As with collision coverage, if the driver that hit you had enough insurance coverage, you would not make a claim against your own insurance policy’s comprehensive coverage. You don’t generally need to worry about proving fault if your car was parked. It is generally assumed that, if someone hits a parked car, that driver was at fault.
What If You Were at Fault for Your Vehicle’s Damage?
If you caused your own vehicle’s damages — by driving off the road or running into a tree or fence, for example — you would either have to pay for the damage yourself or make a claim against your own policy’s collision coverage, if you have collision coverage. However, if the damage is not extensive, you would probably not want to make a claim against your own policy because that might raise your car insurance premium, and it might cost you more money in the long run.
Getting the Insurer to Pay For Your SUV Repair Costs
Regardless of whose insurance company is responsible for paying your repair costs, the first thing that you have to do is make a claim by reporting the accident. The next thing that will usually happen is that the insurer will have your car inspected. If the car is drivable, you will generally be asked to bring it to the insurer’s drive-through inspection station. If the car is not drivable, the insurer will usually have an inspector come to wherever the car is. The insurer will then come up with an estimate of the damages. This estimate may or may not be enough to pay for the repairs. Although the insurer might recommend that you bring the car to a mechanic of its choice, you always have the right to use your own mechanic. Once you get the insurer’s estimate, you should bring your car over to your mechanic and ask if they will accept the insurer’s estimate. If they will, then everything is all set. If they think that the estimate is too low, they will often agree to call the adjuster and discuss things directly with the adjuster. Generally, they will be able to work things out themselves. If You and the Insurer Disagree About Repair Costs If you don’t like the insurer’s final numbers, then the only choice that you have left is to either accept it or file suit. If you find yourself in a dispute with an insurance company where a significant amount of money is at stake, it may be worth it to contact an experienced attorney to make sure that your interests are adequately protected.
Annual United States Road Crash Statistics
• Over 37,000 people die in road crashes each year
• An additional 2.35 million are injured or disable
• Over 1,600 children under 15 years of age die each year
• Nearly 8,000 people are killed in crashes involving drivers ages 16-20
• Road crashes cost the U.S. $230.6 billion per year or an average of $820 per person
• Road crashes are the single greatest annual cause of death of healthy U.S. citizens traveling abroad
Annual Global Road Crash Statistics
• Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year, on average 3,287 deaths a day.
• An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled.
• More than half of all road traffic deaths occur among young adults ages 15-44.
• Road traffic crashes rank as the 9th leading cause of death and account for 2.2% of all deaths globally.
• Road crashes are the leading cause of death among young people ages 15-29, and the second leading cause of death worldwide amongst young people ages 5-14.
• Each year nearly 400,000 people under 25 die on the world’s roads, on average over 1,000 a day.
• Over 90% of all road fatalities occur in low and middle-income countries, which have less than half of the world’s vehicles.
• Road crashes cost USD $518 billion globally, costing individual countries 1-2% of their annual GDP.
• Road crashes cost low and middle-income countries USD $65 billion annually, exceeding the total amount received in developmental assistance.
• Unless action is taken, road traffic injuries are predicted to become the fifth leading cause of death by 2030.
Safety According To The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (IIHS)
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is the authority in vehicle safety in America.
• Frontal crashworthiness — Look for good ratings in frontal crash tests. Most newer models earn top marks for frontal crashworthiness in the federal government’s 35 mph test head-on into a rigid barrier and the IIHS 40 mph moderate overlap test into a deformable barrier. Many but not all late-model vehicles earn acceptable or good ratings from IIHS for protection in a small overlap front crash.
• Side crashworthiness — Choose a vehicle with good side ratings plus side airbags that protect your head. IIHS and NHTSA rate models based on tests that simulate front-into-side crashes. The tests represent different side-impact dangers. Drivers of vehicles with good ratings in the IIHS side-barrier test are 70 percent less likely to die in a driver-side crash compared with drivers in poorly rated vehicles. The majority of 2008 and newer models have side airbags as standard equipment.
• Roof strength — Look for a strong roof. IIHS rates roof strength to help consumers pick vehicles with roofs that will hold up in a rollover crash. Strong roofs reduce the risk of fatal or incapacitating injury in a rollover. Ratings began with 2008-09 models.
• Head restraints — Pick a model with a good seat/head restraint rating to reduce whiplash injuries in a rear-end collision. Vehicles with seat/head restraint combinations rated good by IIHS have 15 percent fewer insurance claims for neck injuries than vehicles with poor ratings. You can help increase protection by adjusting the head restraint to correctly fit your head.
• Electronic stability control — Buy a vehicle with ESC. It’s standard on 2012 and newer models and available on many earlier ones. An extension of antilock brake technology, ESC engages automatically to help drivers maintain control on curves and slippery roads. ESC lowers the risk of a fatal single-vehicle crash by about half and the risk of a fatal rollover by as much as 80 percent.
• Car Weight – The safest cars typically weigh between 3,500 lbs. and 4,500 lbs, the range in which a vehicle remains safe in collisions with larger vehicles such as full-size SUVs while limiting additional threats to drivers of smaller, lighter vehicles such as compact cars. Smaller, lighter vehicles generally offer less protection than larger, heavier ones. People in lighter vehicles also experience higher crash forces when struck by heavier vehicles.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law 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