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.
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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.
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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. That might not sound like a lot, but if you find yourself in an accident with someone in that 7%, what do you do?
You can turn to your own insurance company. If you carry uninsured motorist coverage, you can file a claim and get a payout from your own policy. Keep in mind that you are limited to the coverage limits that you pay for.
A lawsuit is also an option. You can opt to sue the other driver and take them to court. If they are found guilty, they will be ordered to pay for your damages. However, you may not be able to receive the full amount if the defendant doesn’t have the means to pay. If suing the driver is either not a viable option, you may look for a third party that you can hold responsible. If poor road conditions contributed to the accident, you can file a lawsuit against the entity responsible for maintaining the roads.
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 fall into two categories. Economic damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and property losses. Non-economic damages cover your pain and suffering and other losses that are harder to prove.
Medical expenses are usually the main type of damages collected in a settlement. This includes bills for all of the exams, medications, surgeries, and other healthcare related costs incurred due to your injuries. If your treatment is ongoing, your medical expenses may also include estimated future costs. This might be for future physical therapy sessions or additional medications needed. Some common medical expenses include:
- Ambulance fees
- Doctor visits
- Physical/Occupational therapy
- Chiropractic treatments
In some cases, a lawyer may call on a medical expert to testify on the type or severity of your injuries. This can help boost your case, especially for your pain and suffering claims. They can also offer an estimate of how much your injuries may cost you in the future. If you accept a settlement before taking the full scope of your injuries into account, you may lose money. Protect yourself and ensure that future medical costs don’t stack up by having a skilled lawyer representing you.
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When an accident is serious and your injuries require treatment or a healing period, you may need to miss work. When you miss work, you likely will lose income. This lost income can be a part of the settlement that you seek. If your injury prevents you from returning to work long term or permanently, you can also claim diminished earning capacity. This is also true if you have to take on a new, lower paying job because of your injuries.
After a car crash, most people are looking at the cost of repairing or replacing their vehicle. There are other ways that you can face damaged property as well. If you had valuable items in your vehicle that were damaged, those can be claimed as damages as well. This includes the cost of replacing car seats after an accident.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering is the most commonly talked about form of non-economic damages. Because there is no way to calculate or track pain and suffering, it is not always taken seriously. Pain and suffering can cover a variety of things. The pain that you suffer from your injuries can have a negative impact on your quality of life. You might have anxiety or depression after the accident. Your injuries may prevent you from doing things that brought you enjoyment before the crash. A disability caused by your accident injuries can completely change the way that you live your life.
When claiming pain and suffering, it is good to present any and all evidence you can to back your claim. Keep a journal, blog, or video series showing how your life has changed since the car crash. Get statements from people close to you who can attest to your mental state. Get an evaluation from a mental health professional if you are feeling anxious or depressed.
When pain and suffering is valued, there are two main methods used. The multiplier method takes the monetary value of your medical expenses and multiplies it by a number between 1.5 and 5. A lower number is used if your injuries were less severe and your life less impacted by the crash. Higher numbers lead to largest settlements and are used in the most serious cases. If your medical expenses totaled $100,000 and the multiplier settled on is 4, you will be looking at $400,000 for pain and suffering.
The other method that may be used is per diem. One day is given a total value. Then that amount is multiplied by the amount of days that you experienced pain and suffering. Similiar to the multiplier method, the number assigned is based on the circumstances of your claim.
Recovering Damages in a Vermont Auto Accident Case
The size of the settlement that you can receive is dependant on your level of fault for the accident. The total of your damages is calculated and your demands are laid out when you file your claim. You may choose to send a demand letter, outlining the details of the accident and how much money you wish to recover. During negotiations, the insurance company will likely offer you a smaller settlement. This might not be enough to cover your damages. If you feel that you deserve more, you don’t have to accept. A personal injury lawyer can advise you on whether or not you should accept a settlement.
If negotiations fail, you have more options. Some cases will go to arbitration, where a neutral party will review the case and determine who they think is at fault and how much the settlement should be. You can also file a lawsuit against the other driver or liable entity. However, a lawsuit may not be in your best interest if you might share more than half of the liability for the accident. Because of Vermont’s modified comparative negligence standard, you cannot recover any damages if you are found more than 50% responsible for the crash. If you hold fault but it is less than 50%, your settlement will reduce by your percentage of fault.
Having a lawyer review your case and the facts of the accident can be a huge asset. A skilled attorney will know whether it is wise to accept a settlement or proceed with a lawsuit.
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