- Auto accidents are governed by laws varying from state to state, distinguishing between “fault” and “no-fault” states.
- All states require compulsory auto insurance, with coverage types and minimum requirements differing by state.
- Every state has a statute of limitations for claiming damages, ranging between one to six years.
- Comparative negligence assigns fault percentages to all involved drivers, possibly reducing compensation.
- In hit-and-run incidents, fleeing the scene is a criminal offense, and the driver faces criminal charges and civil liability.
Auto accidents can be a life-changing experience for all parties involved. In the United States, over 38,000 people died in auto accidents in 2020 alone. Auto accidents cause physical injuries, resulting in property damage, financial loss, and emotional distress. In such cases, it is essential to have a basic understanding of the laws that govern auto accidents. Here are some auto accident laws you need to know about and what you should do if you ever get into such an accident.
1. Fault and No-fault States
Auto accidents are generally determined by the laws of the state in which the crash occurs. Some states are “fault” states where the driver at fault for the accident is responsible for all damages caused. Other states are “no-fault” states, where each driver’s insurance company pays for medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who caused the accident. No-fault states seek to reduce the number of lawsuits arising from minor accidents and provide swift compensation to the parties involved.
2. Compulsory Auto Insurance Laws
All 50 states in the U.S. require drivers to carry some form of auto insurance coverage. The minimum insurance requirements vary from state to state. Auto insurance laws are designed to ensure that victims of auto accidents can receive compensation for damages caused by negligent drivers. Auto insurance coverage includes liability, collision, medical payments, and personal injury protection.
3. Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the legal period after an auto accident during which a victim can claim damages caused by negligent drivers. Each state has its statute of limitations, ranging from one to six years. Failure to file a claim before the statute of limitations expires can result in losing the right to sue the negligent driver for damages.
4. Comparative Negligence
In some auto accident cases, both parties may be partly responsible for the damages caused. As per the law of comparative negligence, each driver’s fault percentage is assigned based on their degree of negligence. In some states, if the injured party is found to be partially responsible, their compensation may be reduced accordingly.
5. Hit and Run Accidents
Hit-and-run accidents are when the driver who caused the accident leaves the scene before any information is exchanged with the other parties involved. It is a criminal offense in all 50 states to leave the scene of an accident without exchanging insurance information or notifying law enforcement officials. If the driver is caught, they may face criminal charges and civil liability for damages caused.
What to Do if You Get in a Car Accident
Now you know certain laws that govern auto accidents, but what should you do if you ever get in one? Here are some tips on how to handle an accident:
It is essential to document everything related to the accident. Take photos of the damage, exchange information with other parties involved in the accident, and keep track of hospital visits, medical bills, or any relevant documents. This will be helpful later when filing a lawsuit or making an insurance claim.
Call Your Lawyer
You must know a legal professional that can help you during these accidents. You should check for an experienced auto accident injury lawyer near you. The lawyer can help you with legal advice and assist in filing an insurance claim. Call them if you ever get into a complicated car accident and you’re in a “fault” state.
Contact Your Insurance Company
After the accident, immediately contact your insurance company and provide all the necessary information. They will then investigate the claim further and determine whether or not your policy covers you. If you have any coverage questions or need assistance filing a claim, your insurer can help.
An extra tip is immediately talking with the other driver and their insurance company. This can help avoid a lengthy court battle and result in a quicker settlement. Mediation is also an option if both parties are willing to negotiate and compromise in good faith.
Auto accidents can be a traumatic and challenging experience, but with the right knowledge and support, you can protect your rights. Understanding laws related to auto accidents and knowing what to do if you get into one can help ensure justice is served.