The most common question I get from friends and acquaintances is whether you can sue if you are not injured in a car accident? The answer is yes, but with caveats.
Most auto accidents do not result in any physical injuries (75% according to the NHTSA). Even when your vehicle is the only thing that is damaged, you can still file a lawsuit after an auto accident if you were not at fault. This is what is known as a “property damage” auto accident lawsuit. If you file a property damage auto tort case, you can get compensation for the full cost of any damage to your vehicle.
Can I Still Sue If I'm Not Insured in the Auto Accident?
Let’s set aside the property damage because I address that below. The question here is do you have pain and suffering in a car accident where you either had no physical injuries or did not seek medical treatment?
The answer is yes. One of the elements of damages for pain and suffering is inconvenience. So, almost invariably, you can sue for damages for the inconvenience and any pain you felt from the crash even if you did not seek medical treatment.
How Much to Demand for Settlement in a No Injury Car Accident?
So you can sue if you are not “injured” in a car crash. The bigger question is should you and how much money could you receive and how much of a settlement payout should you seek?
First, there is no harm in contacting the insurance company and making a settlement demand. How much do you demand when you are not injured? Well, you shouldn’t demand a lot. How much you demand depends on how strong your pain and suffering case is.
I would estimate the average no medical treatment pain and suffering car accident settlement is $500. So maybe the settlement demand in the average case should be between $1,250 to $1,500.
Can I Hire a Lawyer for My No Injury Car Accident Case?
You are going to have a hard time finding a lawyer. There are not many lawyers who are interested in bringing a personal injury claim without medical treatment.
Property Damage Claims Auto Accident Cases
Bringing a claim or lawsuit for property damage in an auto accident is how you get financial compensation for the damages resulting from the accident. This process typically starts by filing or initiating a “claim” with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This can be done over the phone, or some insurance carriers have an online claim submission system.
The “claim” is basically your formal request that the insurance company: (1) admit that their insured driver was at fault, and (2) voluntarily agree to compensate you for losses resulting from the accident. If you are wondering why an insurance company would voluntarily agree to pay your damages, the answer is simple: if they don’t you can file a lawsuit and a court might force them to pay even more.
In most cases, the insurance company will admit liability and agree to cover your damages. If this happens, you will probably never need to escalate from a claim to a lawsuit. There are 3 scenarios in which filing a lawsuit may be necessary in property damage only auto accident cases: (1) the other driver (and their insurance company) claims that you were at fault for the accident; (2) the insurance company admits liability but refuses to pay you fair value; and (3) the at-fault driver does not have auto insurance.
Building a Property Damage Auto Accident Case
When you bring a lawsuit in a property damage-only auto accident case, you are suing the other driver for “negligence” just like you would in an auto accident involving personal injuries. To establish negligence in an auto tort case, you will need to prove 2 elements: (i) liability for the accident; and (ii) your damages sustained in the accident.
First and foremost, you will need to prove that the other driver was at fault in the accident. The driver will be “at fault” if he or she violated the applicable traffic laws (e.g., failed to yield, ran stop sign) or otherwise failed to operate their vehicle with “reasonable care” (e.g., texting and driving, merging without looking, etc.).
In many cases, the other driver’s liability for the accident will be obvious and easy to establish (e.g., rear-end cases). If fault for the accident is less obvious, you will need to gather evidence to prove that the other driver was negligent. A police accident report with a determination of fault is the strongest evidence. If you don’t have a police report, evidence of fault can include photographs of the scene and statements from you and any witnesses.
Establishing Damages and Recoverable Compensation
Once you prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident, you will need to establish the value of “recoverable” property damages you sustained as a result of the accident. Recoverable property damages allowed in a property damage accident case include:
- The full and fair cost of repairing any damage to your vehicle and any other property (e.g., cell phone, computer, etc.) that was damaged in the accident.
- The full and fair cost of replacing the vehicle or other property if the cost of repairing the damage exceeds the replacement value (i.e., the vehicle is “totaled”).
- The reasonable cost of transportation while your vehicle is being repaired or replaced (e.g., rental car, Uber / Lyft, public transit).
In addition to these traditional expense items, you can also recover compensation for any property damage as long it is a direct result of the accident.
Settling vs. Going to Trial in Property Damage Auto Accident Cases
Auto accident claims typically settle out of court because taking a case to trial can be very expensive and time-consuming for both sides. In property damage only cases, the insurance company will have a strong incentive to settle quickly to avoid excessive defense costs.
Notwithstanding their strong incentive for settling claims quickly, most insurance companies will make an effort to settle claims cheaply. This is particularly true in property damage-only claims because there is less risk of the case going to litigation. If the insurance company insists on trying to lowball your property damage claim, you may need to file a lawsuit to force them to offer fair value.
FAQs: Car Accident Lawyer No Injury
Below are some commonly asked no injury claims questions and answers.
Do lawyers take no injury auto accident cases?
Again, most personal injury lawyers will not take no-injury auto accident cases, especially on a contingent fee basis. Hiring a car crash attorney is often not practical or necessary in a case involving property damage only. Most auto accident attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, which means they receive a percentage (usually around 33%) of any compensation they collect on your behalf. Contingency fees work well in cases involving personal injury damages, but they don’t work very well in property damage cases.
How much will my auto accident claim be worth with no injuries?
The value of an auto accident case with no personal injuries will be based on the extent of damage to your vehicle and how much it will cost to either repair the damage or replace the vehicle (if the car is “totaled”) and the “injuries” and inconvenience you suffered. Again, my experience is the average car crash with medical treatment will settle for $500.
Can you file an auto accident lawsuit yourself without a lawyer?
You can always represent yourself in any legal matter and this is true in auto accident claims and lawsuits. If you want to file a lawsuit against another driver in a no-injury accident case you can file it on behalf of yourself without an attorney.