Car accidents often result in significant amounts of damage – property damage expenses, medical bills, and lost wages are all common, especially when the car accident is severe.
In order to pay for these damages, drivers throughout the nation typically have one of two options: filing a claim against their own insurance policy’s no-fault coverage, or filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability coverage.
Which option a driver selects will depend on whether they live in an at-fault state, also called a tort liability state, or a no-fault state. In Iowa, fault-based rules apply. Here’s what you should know–
Q: What should I do after a car accident?
Once you have narrowed down the list of law firms that could potentially represent you, you should take advantage of any free consultations to speak with the attorneys in person.
This will provide you with an opportunity to discuss the facts of your case with the attorney and obtain advice on how he or she would handle your claim. You may also want to ask the following questions:
- Whether he or she has experience with car accident cases;
- The firm’s record of success;
- The fees and costs you can expect to incur if you file a claim;
- The strengths and weaknesses of your own case;
- Whether he or she would personally handle your case, or if it would be by another attorney;
- How long they expect the resolution of the case to take; and
- How often he or she will communicate with you regarding your case’s progress.
Initial consultations also provide a good opportunity to assess the lawyer-client dynamic with each attorney.
Q: How do I prove pain and suffering?
It is easier to prove physical pain and suffering as you will more than likely have the testimony of a doctor who will confirm your physical injuries. Mental pain and suffering are more difficult.
If you visit a psychologist, therapist or counselor, you may have a better chance of proving your case. Sometimes, a family doctor can write a narrative confirming your mental distress.
You can also ask loved ones, friends, co-workers or employer to write letters explaining how your mental state has changed after an accident. Keeping a journal is another way to document the pain and suffering after an accident.
Keep a list of all prescriptions your doctor orders after the accident. If any are for anxiety, depression or sleep aids, you will be better able to document mental distress.
An Overview of Iowa’s Car Insurance
In Iowa, which is an at-fault state, all drivers must be able to demonstrate ‘financial responsibility’. One way to do this is through obtaining liability insurance. Under state regulations, an auto insurance liability policy must include coverage for:
- $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage; and
- $15,000 per accident in property damage liability coverage.
Though, unlike most U.S. state, Iowa does not necessarily mandate that drivers get a car insurance policy. Under the Iowa Motor Vehicle Financial and Safety Responsibility Act, motorists can also satisfy legal requirements by providing proof that they have the financial means to cover accident damages.
Still, for the overwhelming majority of drivers in Iowa, purchasing liability coverage is a sensible financial decision. In addition, drivers are also encouraged to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, although these coverage types are not mandated in Iowa.
Understanding Your Options for Recovery
After a Crash in Iowa
Because Iowa is an at-fault state, you maintain the right to seek compensation for both economic and noneconomic damages after a crash. Your three primary options for recovery include:
- Make a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance: If another driver was at-fault for your crash, you can make a claim by contacting their liability insurance carrier. When dealing with the opposing insurance company after a major accident, it is always best to work through an experienced Iowa car accident lawyer.
- File a lawsuit against the other driver: While settlement may be possible, injured victims always retain the right to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver.
- Make a claim with your own insurance: If you have full coverage — collision coverage, MedPay coverage, towing coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, etc — you can make a claim against your own insurance policy. Should another party be held liable for your crash, your insurer can then seek payment from the responsible party and, eventually, refund you the full value of your deductible.
Note that in some instances, a party other than the other driver involved in the accident is to blame for the crash. For example, a crash may be caused by a defective vehicle part or an unsafe road condition, in which case a vehicle manufacturer, municipality, etc. may be liable. If this is the case, you maintain the right to file a claim against any liable party.
What You Need to Know About Comparative
Fault in Iowa
Finally, note that in Iowa, comparative fault laws apply. This means that if you are found to have contributed to your accident in any way, your recoverable damages award will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault.
However, under Iowa law (I.C.A. § 668.3(1)(b)), there is a strict 51 percent bar on recovery. If a driver is determined to be responsible for more than 50 percent of an accident, then they will be prohibited from recovering compensation through a negligence claim.
Contact Our Iowa Car Accident Lawyers
At VanDerGinst Law, our Iowa car accident attorneys are committed to providing strong, effective legal representation to injured victims.
To learn more about fault laws in Iowa and what to do after being involved in a car accident or another accident type, please contact us at our Cedar Rapids law office for a free, no obligation initial consultation.