Vermont Auto Accident Laws & Resources

If you have been in a car accident, you have important rights under Vermont auto accident laws. In this guide, we will discuss some important Vermont auto accident laws. These include your options for seeking compensation for your injuries.

For more information about your rights under Vermont law and to determine what your case may be worth, contact an experienced Vermont auto accident lawyer today.

Vermont is a Fault-Based State

Vermont auto accident laws operate on a fault-based system. This means that the party found to be at fault for causing the car accident will be responsible for paying for any damages. The at-fault driver’s car insurance provider is typically responsible for paying all damages. This payment will be up to the amount specified in the insurance policy. However, Vermont has a modified comparative negligence standard. The injured party may not be able to recover damages if he or she is more at-fault than the defendant.

Modified Comparative Negligence and Vermont Auto Accident Laws

Vermont follows a comparative negligence standard in auto accident cases. With comparative negligence, the injured party’s award of damages reduces by the percentage that he or she is at fault for the accident. For example, a jury decides to award a plaintiff $100,000. But the jury finds that the plaintiff was 20% responsible for the car accident. So the award of damages reduces by $20,000.

In Vermont, under 12 V.S.A. section 1036, an injured party’s damages reduces according to a percentage. But if her share of liability for the accident exceeds 50% then she cannot recover any damages. In other words, a plaintiff can only recover if his fault is less than that of the defendant’s. Modified comparative negligence is Vermont’s standard for car accidents. 

Returning to the example from above, the jury finds that the plaintiff was 60% at fault for the accident. In that case, the plaintiff recovers nothing rather than $40,000 (40% of $100,000). Note that there is no exact science or formula for assigning fault in a car accident. As the party seeking damages, you will have the burden of persuading an insurance company or jury that the defendant was more at fault for the accident.

Vermont Auto Accident Laws Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations sets forth the amount of time that an injured party has to file a lawsuit. If the suit is not filed before that time period has expired, the victim will forfeit the right to file a claim in court. Note that the statute of limitations does not apply to filing a claim with an insurance company. However, if the Vermont statute of limitations has tolled, the insurance company has less of an incentive to reach a settlement.

Under Vermont auto accident laws, the length of the statute of limitations may vary. It will depend on whether the accident resulted in damage to a vehicle, personal injury, or death. According to 12 V.S.A. section 512, lawsuits involving a car accident injury and/or damage to a vehicle must be filed within 3 years from the date of the accident.

However, 14 V.S.A. section 1492, adds additional variances if the accident resulted in a death. The family of the deceased person must file a wrongful death claim within 2 years from the date of the victim’s death.

It is not uncommon for car accident victims to file a lawsuit even though they are in the process of negotiating a car accident settlement with the insurance company. Filing a lawsuit is a way of protecting your rights. This is very important in the event that you are unable to reach an adequate settlement. But be sure to file a lawsuit by the deadline set by the Vermont statute of limitations. Failing to do so can have devastating consequences. For this reason, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced Vermont auto accident lawyer to protect your rights.

Vermont Minimum Insurance Liability Coverage Amounts

Vermont auto accident laws, like the laws of most states, require that every vehicle be covered by insurance. Under 23 V.S.A. section 800 the required minimum amounts of liability coverage are: 

  • $10,000 liability coverage for property damage caused by the insured vehicle.
  • $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury or death caused by the insured vehicle. 
  • $50,000 liability coverage for total bodily injury or death liability in an accident caused by the insured vehicle. 

Vehicle owners also have the option to file evidence of $115,000 in self-insurance with Vermont’s Commissioner of Motor Vehicles rather than purchasing liability insurance. Vermont auto accident laws require the purchase of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage under 23 V.S.A. section 941. UM allows you to recover from your insurance company if you are involved in a car accident and the at-fault driver does not have insurance. UM minimums in Vermont are $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.

Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance in Vermont 

Drivers that fail to produce proof of insurance following a car accident or traffic stop will likely end up with a traffic ticket. Penalties can include a fine and/or suspension of driving privileges. Moreover, if you do not have insurance you risk being personally liable for any injuries or property damage that you cause in a car accident. 

Vermont Auto Accident Laws for Accidents Involving Uninsured Drivers

According to research by the Insurance Information Institute, approximately 7% of drivers in Vermont do not have car insurance. If you are in a car accident in Vermont with an uninsured driver, you have several options: 

  • Sue the other driver. You can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party but if he or she has no assets it can be difficult to collect damages. 
  • Sue a third party. You can file a lawsuit against a third party if the accident was due to factors other than driver error. For example, a brake failure may have contributed to the accident. In which case, you may be able to file a claim against the manufacturer and/or a party that serviced the vehicle. 
  • File an uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) claim. You can seek compensation from your insurance company through a UM claim. 

Types of Damages in Vermont Auto Accident Cases 

Under Vermont auto accident laws there are no caps on recoverable damages in a car accident case. In Vermont, the most common types of damages in a car accident case include:  

  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages 
  • Pain and Suffering 
  • Property Losses 

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses account for a large portion of damage awards in a Vermont auto accident case. Medical expenses include the costs of treatment for injuries resulting from the accident. They can also cover estimated costs of future medical treatment. Some commonly incurred medical expenses include: 

  • Ambulance costs 
  • Hospitalizations
  • Physician visits 
  • Physical therapy 
  • Chiropractic care 
  • Medication 
  • Surgeries 

An experienced Vermont auto accident lawyer will typically retain a medical expert. This expert can help to establish the costs of future medical expenses. Future medical expenses often exceed the costs of immediate medical expenses. Since all these expenses resulted from the accident, you should expect compensation. One mistake that unrepresented accident victims often make is accepting a lowball settlement. This offer likely does not include compensation for future medical expenses. Hiring an experienced Vermont auto accident lawyer can help you to receive adequate compensation for your injuries.  

Lost Wages

You should expect compensation for time that you miss work after a car accident. You can also receive compensation for diminished earning capacity. This includes being unable to return to work. Or, having to work in a lower paying job if you can no longer perform the job that you had before the car accident. 

Car accident victims need representation by an experienced Vermont auto accident lawyer. Without one, they often accept settlements from insurance companies that do not include damages for lost future earning capacity. An experienced attorney can demonstrate the full extent of your lost wages. An attorney can convince the insurance company or a jury that you deserve more compensation.

Pain and Suffering

Car accident victims can also receive non-economic damages. These are those that do not result in easily documentable expenses. Under Vermont auto accident laws, injured parties may qualify for damages for pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is a legal term that encompasses both emotional and physical injuries suffered in a personal injury case.  

Some examples of pain and suffering include: 

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder 
  • Chronic pain
  • Disability or physical limitations 
  • Loss of enjoyment in life 

Vermont auto accident laws provide several ways of calculating damages for pain and suffering. One is the multiplier method. This involves using a multiplier of the victim’s total economic losses. For example, if you incurred medical expenses and lost wages of $50,000 and with a multiplier of 3, your pain and suffering damages would be $150,000. Note that the multiplier used varies depending on the case. 

Another common method is the per diem method. This involves multiplying the number of days that the victim may experience pain and suffering by a daily value. Again, these calculations are case specific. They depend on factors such as the extent of the victim’s injuries and suffering. 

Property Losses

Accident victims are also entitled to recover damages for property losses. This may include the costs of repairing a damaged vehicle. 

Recovering Damages in a Vermont Auto Accident Case 

If you have been in a car accident in Vermont, you must report the crash if: 

  • Someone sustained injuries; or 
  • Total property damage exceeded $3,000.

Report an accident within 72 hours by submitting a Report of a Motor Vehicle Crash form with the Vermont DMV. 

There are several different ways to recover damages in a car accident in Vermont. For most accidents, the first step after reporting the accident will be to contact your insurance company. Your insurance company will contact the other driver’s insurance company. They will work together to make a fault determination. 

If the other driver is at-fault his or insurance company will pay for your damages. Typically, when the other driver is at fault, the insurance company will send you a settlement offer. It is not uncommon to receive a low initial offer. This is because insurance companies attempt to limit their liability. They do so by getting an unrepresented party unfamiliar with Vermont auto accident laws to accept a settlement. This settlement is often less than the driver deserves. 

You can also send the insurance company a formal demand letter. This letter details the extent of your damages and requests a specific dollar amount to settle the case. It is a good idea to consult with an experienced Vermont car accident lawyer to properly value your claim. 

Another option is to file a lawsuit. This is a suitable option if the insurance company has been unwilling to budge on their offer. You may think that you could get more damages from a jury. Moreover, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit before the Vermont statute of limitations has run. This will preserve your right to go to trial in the event you are unable to reach a settlement with the insurance company. 

To recover damages at trial, you must prove that the other drive was negligent. The other driver must be more at fault (greater than 50%) for the accident than you were. To the extent that you were also at fault for the accident (but less than 50%), any award of damages that you receive will reduce under the Vermont modified comparative negligence standard. 

Vermont Car Accident Settlement Calculator 

If you’d like to see how much your accident settlement may be worth, please fill out this form. Lawsuit Info Center will help you get in touch with a Vermont car accident attorney.