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  • Writer's pictureTom Fowler

How to File a Lawsuit for Car Accident in Iowa - What Victims Should Know

The Iowa Department of Transportation claims that 2023 was the deadliest year for motor vehicle accidents. Most incidents happened in rural areas and involved motorcycles. Staying safe on the road requires one to be vigilant, but even those precautions might not be enough.

A victim might have to file a lawsuit if they wish to recover the compensation they deserve after a car crash. It's often wise to hire an attorney for the process because there is a time limit, legal procedures must be followed, and one wants to achieve a successful claim.

Tom Fowler Law can help victims cope with a car accident lawsuit in addition to their injuries. Call today for a free case evaluation. They can also advise on how to file a lawsuit for truck accident in Iowa.

Negotiating a Settlement After an Iowa Car Accident (Before Filing a Lawsuit)

Negotiating a Settlement After an Iowa Car Accident (Before Filing a Lawsuit)

Many personal injury cases are settled out of court, including car accidents.

Before filing suit, a personal injury lawyer recommends that the victim put in a claim with the other person's insurance company to try and negotiate a settlement. This is beneficial for both parties because it avoids a court case.

Generally, the settlement negotiations look like this:

  • The attorney collects evidence from the accident and begins preparing the case.

  • The attorney calculates damages.

  • The attorney contacts the defendant to determine how much insurance coverage they had, sending a demand for relief.

  • The insurance company will respond with its counteroffer.

  • The attorney negotiates with the insurer on the victim's behalf to reach a satisfactory agreement, if possible.

The choice of a settlement rests with the victim. An attorney can determine whether the insurance company's offer is fair based on future and current losses. In some cases, it will be better to file a personal injury claim.

If the victim chooses to file a car accident lawsuit, they must still do so within the statute of limitations. For more information, the best car accident lawyers in Des Moines may be able to help.

What Happens If the Case Doesn't Settle?

While settling out of court is normal, litigation might be necessary. For example, the insurance company might dispute fault for the car accident or contest the damages of the personal injury claim.

If one files a car accident lawsuit, the case might still not go to trial. Insurance companies are usually likely to settle when they learn the victim and the personal injury lawyer are willing to go to court for fair compensation. It's common to file suit and have the claim settled before the courts are involved.

Overall, it's crucial to realize that one might have to file a lawsuit and prepare for trial. This can be a stressful experience, but a lawyer can alleviate some of the fear and worry.

What Steps Must a Victim Take for a Personal Injury Lawsuit After a Car Accident?

Though personal injury lawsuits should be a last resort, they might be the only option available if the victim and defendant (or their insurance provider) cannot reach an agreement.

If one must file a personal injury claim, here are the steps the attorney will take on the victim's behalf:

1. Draft a Complaint

The attorney must first draft a complaint covering the scope of the car accident case. It usually contains information about why the victim is filing a lawsuit, what they want to get from it, and why the quest for relief and compensation is legitimate. Many times, the lawyer includes proof of property damage, medical bills, and lost wages.

Usually, the complaint contains the plaintiff (victim) and the defendant (at-fault party). It's often wise to let the experienced lawyer start this process because they know how to draft a legal document and will file it with the right court system.

2. Serve the Complaint to the Defendant

Once the attorney files the complaint, the court issues a summons. This is the official notification telling the defendant they're being sued.

The summons and complaint are then served on the defendant. They often include information about the parties named in the car accident case, the date of the first hearing, the plaintiff's lawyer, and the court's location.

3. Resume Settlement Negotiations (in Most Situations)

A summons and complaint are typically enough to show the at-fault party that the victim is serious about the personal injury claim and will take it to court if needed. Therefore, the defense often goes to the negotiating table and will return with a decent settlement offer.

4. Prepare for Trial

Whether the defendant decides to settle or not, the lawyer will continue preparing the documents and arguments for trial. It's crucial to do this because the insurance provider or defendant may decide they have a better chance in court.

During this phase, the lawyer will:

  • Gather evidence

  • Determine any weaknesses in the case

  • Go through the discovery process

  • Identify witnesses and prepare them

  • Get ready for a court case

5. Go to Trial (If Needed)

If the defendant is at fault, the insurance company will probably settle out of court. However, if the parties can't reach a settlement agreement, the lawyers will proceed to a trial to pursue compensation.

Statute of Limitations for Iowa Car Accident Lawsuits

The Iowa car accident statute of limitations is two years from the time the injury occurred, which is usually the date of the incident. An experienced attorney will help victims file a lawsuit before the deadline and build a strong case.

If a victim files a personal injury lawsuit for lost wages and medical bills after the deadline, a civil court will likely refuse to hear the case.

Iowa law gives victims two years from the accident date to file, and this applies to a wrongful death lawsuit, as well. However, the statute of limitations goes up to five years for property damage claims.

It's important to understand that an insurance claim has a different timeline than a lawsuit. Most insurance companies set their deadlines, which are quite short. Therefore, victims should contact the insurer as quickly as possible after the incident to ensure they file on time.

Understanding Iowa's Modified Comparative Fault Rules

Iowa is an at-fault state and uses the modified comparative fault system. Therefore, it's crucial to determine how the car accident happened. Often called the 51 percent rule, it means that the victim must be less than 51 percent at fault to recover damages.

The insurance company or court will review the evidence and assign a liability percentage to each party. In most situations, it's determined that the victim might not have caused the accident, though they could have done things differently to avoid the crash. Therefore, they're usually assigned an amount of fault of some kind.

For example, the victim was found to be 10 percent liable for the accident, so their damage award was reduced by that same amount.

Types of Damages Accident Victims Can Claim in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Being injured in a car accident can be financially devastating to the victim and their family. With such a short time limit for filing a claim, it's usually best to hire a lawyer to recover both economic and non-economic damages.

Here are the types of damages victims can claim:

Lost Wages and Medical Treatment Bills

Injuries from car accidents can prevent the victim from working for long periods, especially if they require extensive recovery time and surgery. During medical treatment, the employee might not be allowed to perform normal duties. Sometimes, the damage is permanently debilitating, so they may be unable to return to that job.

Likewise, victims of car accidents may have to miss work periodically to attend physical therapy sessions or follow-up appointments with their primary care doctor. They shouldn't be penalized because of someone else's negligence.

Medical treatment after the accident could be expensive. Though the victim might have health insurance, it might not be enough to cover everything.

During a personal injury lawsuit, the victim can claim these expenses:

  • Assistive devices (wheelchair or crutches)

  • Prescription drugs

  • Physical therapy

  • Follow-up doctor visits

  • Surgeries

  • Hospital stays

  • Emergency services

Property Damage

If another person caused the car accident, the victim will likely have property damage to a vehicle. Likewise, the items inside might have been broken or destroyed. They have the right to seek compensation for those things.

Pain and Suffering

Usually, a car accident impacts the victim's quality of life in other ways. Though lost income and medical bills are easy to quantify, physical pain, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress aren't. These are called non-economic damages, and the attorney will include them in the settlement.

Hire an Experienced Attorney to Recover Compensation Through a Personal Injury or Insurance Claim

Hire an Experienced Attorney to Recover Compensation Through a Personal Injury or Insurance Claim

Car accidents can cause serious injuries or even death. Victims may be faced with significant financial costs and emotional burdens.

Most victims believe they must file a lawsuit to recover fair compensation. Though this might be the best course of action, it's wise to let an experienced attorney attempt to negotiate a settlement first.

Choosing the right legal team is essential, and Tom Fowler Law is an excellent option for those in the Hawkeye State. Call to schedule a free consultation today. Discuss the aspects of the case to determine if it's possible to recover compensation for injuries, lost wages, and more.

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