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Saturday, February 24, 2024

College 101: Should You Sue?

Over the summer, I was driving back and forth to work every day. I knew the route pretty well, and I had to be particularly careful at this one intersection, because it seemed like every time I was there people were running the stop sign. One day, I saw a driver obey the stop sign and, after that driver went through, I took my turn — only to find out that the next driver wasn’t planning to stop for the stop sign. The next driver hit me.

I was pretty upset about my car, and I’d hurt my neck. But the guy was apologetic and the police said they’d put in the report that it was the other driver’s fault, not mine. My parents helped me handle the insurance stuff, and that was kind of all there was to it, as far as I know. Only now I’ve been back and forth with the doctor because my neck still doesn’t feel right, and the medical bills are getting really bad and tough on my parents and me.

My question is: Should I sue the other driver? I feel bad adding another lawsuit to the world, but I’m not sure what else to do.

Your question is a good one, but it’s not one that you’re going to get answered effectively online. Taking legal advice from the internet is rarely a good idea, and most lawyers will offer advice only if they meet with you personally and take you on as a client. There are a few reasons for this, including the fact that offering advice and behaving as a lawyer can make an attorney your representative in the eyes of the law, which exposes them to all kinds of duties and even to the risk of your suing them for malpractice. With all of this said, we can offer some broad-strokes guidance.

The area of law that is concerned with incidents like yours is called tort law. Tort law is the portion of the law that allows parties to sue each other for damages in civil (rather than criminal) court. And tort laws include plenty of statutes that govern what you can and cannot recoup after a car accident.

You need to know one important about personal injury torts: They hinge on negligence. In other words, if you and another driver get into an accident that was all your fault, you’re not likely to have much of a case when suing them for your medical expenses or pain and suffering. In the eyes of the law, the other party in this hypothetical did nothing to cause these expenses, and therefore wouldn’t normally be on the hook for them.

But we’re not dealing with a hypothetical here, of course: We’re dealing with a real-life accident that you had this summer. And you described a driver who ran a stop sign — and right after seeing another driver stop at the stop sign properly, no less. That may strike you as reckless and negligent. If you were to pursue a lawsuit, you’d have to prove that it was, and that the driver’s actions caused the accident, and that the accident caused the injuries that led to the medical bills and other damages that you’d be seeking. (Of course, not all personal injury cases go to court — in fact, only a relatively small percent of them do. Perhaps your case will look strong enough to inspire the other side to make a good settlement offer.)

Would your case be a strong one? Maybe, but the only way to find out is to seek out a lawyer and set up a consultation. And you should do so quickly, say the experts from the Nashville personal injury firm, Cummings Law. Time is of the essence, because statutes of limitations give you only a certain amount of time to sue and because important evidence could be disappearing.

Meeting with a great lawyer will give you a sense of your options. We can’t tell you whether or not you should sue, but we can tell you this: You should make sure you meet with an attorney and learn about all of your options.

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