Hiring a car accident attorney always starts with an initial meeting where you can discuss the details of your accident and the damages you suffered. You can schedule that meeting any time following the crash, but the sooner, the better. The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit in Utah is four years from the date of the accident, but the longer you wait, the more it can potentially weaken your case. Consider the state laws that can affect your case and how you should proceed when seeking compensation.
When Can You Bypass the No-Fault Auto Insurance System in Utah?
Utah is one of a small number of states that mandate no-fault auto insurance called personal injury protection for drivers. The purpose of PIP is to ensure you have access to compensation for medical expenses and lost wages when an accident occurs. It also relieves you of the responsibility of proving fault. However, Utah only requires $3,000 in PIP coverage, which is often not enough to cover all the victim’s losses, especially in cases where they suffered severe injuries. To help victims with extensive losses, the state set a serious injury threshold that allows victims to bypass the no-fault process.
The Threshold for Serious Injury
Suppose your injuries resulted in losses that exceed the $3,000 limit for medical expenses. In that case, you can file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider or sue them through civil court to recover your damages. Additionally, if your injuries cause a permanent disability, leave you with a disfigurement, or result in dismemberment, you can skip the PIP claim and potentially recover all your losses through a fault claim. The first step in understanding which route to compensation is best, given the circumstances of your case, is to speak with a car accident attorney.
How Can a Car Accident Attorney Help You?
When you file a claim or lawsuit demanding compensation from another person, the response is not always ideal. Auto insurance companies are for-profit businesses that generally prioritize the company’s bottom line over the best interests of car accident victims. As a result, they will often resort to tactics used in bad faith to get you to give up in frustration. The chances of that happening when you have legal representation are significantly lower. Some ways a car accident lawyer can help you include:
- They have negotiation skills they will use to argue for a fast and fair settlement.
- They understand the nuances of personal injury laws that apply to car accident cases.
- They will prepare and file all necessary paperwork for your claim or a lawsuit.
- They will investigate the accident, sometimes with the assistance of an accident reconstruction expert, to find evidence of fault.
- They will gather the evidence needed to support all damages claims.
- They can adequately value your non-economic losses to ensure your compensation is sufficient.
- They provide a professional presence during the legal process, protecting you from rights violations.
- They offer a sympathetic understanding of your situation because they have helped people in similar situations.
Victims of negligent drivers who suffer severe injuries should, at the very least, be able to recover from their injuries without the added financial burdens of lost income and medical expenses. A car accident attorney will fight aggressively to ensure they have that opportunity.
How Can You Prove Compensatory Damages?
Compensatory damages are the losses incurred as a result of your accident, both financial and psychological. The financial losses are your economic damages, including the cost of medical care, lost wages due to missed work, damaged property, and other expenses related to the accident, including the cost of household help or transportation to medical treatments. Non-economic losses are the ways your accident impacted your psychological health negatively. These can include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and mental anguish. Proving these losses can be tedious, but your attorney knows where to identify them and how to value them adequately.
Proving Your Economic Losses
Evidence for economic damages is relatively straightforward. Examples include:
- Medical bills for all treatments
- Receipts for prescription medications and medical devices
- Pay stubs or tax returns for lost wages
- Estimates for vehicle repairs
- Receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses, including transportation needs or structural changes made to your home to accommodate a disability
You can start collecting these documents immediately. First, request copies of your medical records and file every bill, doctor’s note, and prescription. Your attorney will collect everything to include in the evidence supporting your claim.
Valuing Your Non-Economic Losses
Non-economic losses are significantly more complex. However, if you can prove them adequately, they can account for a large portion of your compensation. Your attorney will interview individuals in your life who can testify to any change they noticed in you following the accident. In addition, you can keep a journal to document how your injuries impact your daily life and how that affects you. You may also use doctors and mental health professionals to provide statements regarding the effects of your injuries.
Finally, you must assign a monetary value to the non-economic losses. The most common method is to use a multiplier. This requires you to choose a number between 1.5 and 5 to reflect the severity of your injuries. Then, multiply the economic damages by that number to get a value for non-economic losses. A higher multiplier would indicate more substantial losses.
What Happens if You Share Fault for the Accident?
Once you draft and send your demand letter to the defense, you can expect a potential response with allegations of your shared responsibility for the accident. If you are partially responsible, Utah’s comparative negligence rule allows you to collect compensation in an amount that reflects the other party’s percentage of fault. For example, if you are 20% liable for the accident, you can recover 80% of the total value of damages. However, if you are more than 50% responsible, Utah’s civil court will not allow you to recover damages. This is a version of the laws that govern shared fault called modified comparative negligence.
When Can You Schedule Your Free Consultation With a Car Accident Attorney?
You can schedule your free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as the day of the accident. There is no obligation to hire, and they will answer any questions you have involving the details of your case. Car accidents can have devastating financial, emotional, and physical consequences, and negligent drivers should be held liable for the damage they cause. A car accident attorney can ensure they pay the price for their careless behavior.
At Siegfried and Jensen, our team of experienced car accident attorneys helps victims of personal injury every day. We know the burdens you face and aim to protect you from greedy insurance companies. You have a right to compensation for your losses so you can rebuild your life or start adapting to new circumstances. Do not hesitate to contact us, even if you think you may not need legal representation. We can still offer expert advice and guide you to the best legal avenue for compensation. Contact Siegfried and Jensen at (801) 845-9000 to schedule your free case evaluation and speak with an attorney today.