What Can You Sue For in a Car Accident?

Tarun Sridharan Legal Editor & Attorney Contributor Read Time: 3 minutes

What Can You Sue For in a Car Accident?

After a car accident, you’ll need to determine how to proceed with your case – especially in the event of serious injuries which require regular doctor visits, time off work, or permanent disability. In deciding what you can sue for, you’ll need to first consider which legal argument will be used to hold the defendant liable and second, the damages (i.e. the dollar amount you will ask for.)

Legal Argument

In regards to car accidents, people usually end up suing for negligence, which is the basis of a personal injury case. Negligence results in the failure to exercise a reasonable level of care considering the specific circumstances.

In the event of a car accident, that means when Driver A fails to use reasonable care that ends up causing Driver B harm, then Driver B can file a lawsuit alleging that there was negligence on the part of Driver A. Failure to comply with driving laws, texting while driving, failure to keep a safe distance, and any other number of careless behaviors can provide the legal grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.


The amount of damages you’ll sue for in a car accident is based on what you’ve lost – both monetary and otherwise. If you are filing a claim, insurance companies use a variety of methods to determine the value of a personal injury claim. It usually involves compensation for the medical bills you provide as well as lost wages, and possibly some amount money for pain and suffering. “Pain and suffering” is subjective and more difficult to prove. It can be even more problematic if the car accident was minor.

Pain and suffering refers to the physical and/or emotional stress associated with an accident and the injuries caused by it. The majority of states in the U.S. follow a standard fault-based liability system, where the person who caused the accident is considered negligent and thus held financially responsible for all reasonable damages. But there are a handful of states that follow a “no fault” system that prevents the injured party from filing a personal injury claim and from collecting compensation for pain and suffering. The only exception in the latter case is if medical bills exceed a certain dollar amount, which varies from state to state. If you are unsure about the laws in your state, consult with a personal injury attorney.

When calculating pain and suffering, insurance companies tend to look at the severity and permanence of injuries. A person with a broken arm will likely be entitled to less money for pain and suffering versus someone who suffered an injury that put them in a wheelchair – whether permanent or temporary. This makes sense because the more severe and permanent the injury, the more pain and suffering you are likely to experience.

To calculate the dollar value in regards to pain and suffering, insurance companies multiple the amount of your medical bills by a number between one and five. The more severe the injury, the higher the multiplier. Your attorney can help you come up with a figure to request based on their experience, as well as reasons to justify the amount in your demand letter.

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