After a traffic accident in Connecticut, if you've been injured and/or incurred significant vehicle damage, you might want to consider your options for holding the at-fault driver financially responsible for your losses. In this article, we'll discuss a few Connecticut laws that could have a big impact on your case.
A "statute of limitations" is a state law that puts a strictly-enforced time limit on the right to bring a lawsuit. These deadlines vary based on the kind of harm you suffered and/or the kind of case you want to file.
(Note: the statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver's, is going to require you to make a claim -- or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim -- "promptly" or "within a reasonable time" after the accident. That usually means a matter of days, or a few weeks at most.)
In Connecticut, as in most states, the statute of limitations that applies to most car accident lawsuits is the same as the larger one that applies to almost all personal injury cases where one person’s negligenceis said to have caused harm to another.
Specifically, General Statutes of Connecticut section 52-584 says: "No action to recover damages for injury to the person, or to real or personal property, caused by negligence, or by reckless or wanton misconduct…shall be brought but within two years from the date when the injury is first sustained."
In plain English, that means after a car accident, an injury claim filed by a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian must be filed within two years of the date of the crash. That same deadline applies to a lawsuit over vehicle damage caused by an accident.
If the car accident caused someone’s death, and the family or other representative of the deceased person wants to bring a wrongful death claim against the driver who caused the crash, the deadline for filing that kind of lawsuit is also two years, but the clock starts running from the date of the victim’s death, and that date might be later than the date of the accident. And General Statutes of Connecticut section 52-555 makes clear that no Connecticut wrongful death claim can be made if more than five years have passed since the date of the act the underlying accident.
So, what happens if the statute of limitations deadline has passed, and you try to file your car accident lawsuit anyway? In that situation, the defendant (that’s the person you’re trying to sue) will point out the passage of the deadline in a motion to dismiss, and any Connecticut court will almost certainly grant the dismissal (unless some rare exception acts to extend the deadline). That's why it's crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation.
Finally, from a strategic standpoint, it's always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit, even if you think your case will be resolved through a car insurance settlement. Keeping all your options on the table will give you more leverage during settlement talks. So if the statute of limitations filing deadline is close, it may be time to talk with an experienced Connecticut car accident attorney.
"Comparative fault" refers to a situation where more than one party is at least partially at fault for an accident. States follow different approaches in this scenario.
General Statutes of Connecticut section 52-572h says that, in a personal injury lawsuit, you can recover against any other at-fault party, but your damages (your financial recovery) will be reduced by a percentage that corresponds to your share of liability. And you will not be able to recover anything at all if your share of fault for the accident exceeds 50 percent in comparison with other parties. This makes Connecticut a "modified comparative negligence" state.
To see how this rule plays out in real life, we’ll take a look at an example. Let’s say you're driving a few miles-per-hour over the speed limit when another driver suddenly makes a left turn in front of you. Without enough time to stop, you collide with the other car. The other driver is found to be 80 percent at fault, but since you were speeding, the jury (or adjuster) figures that you were 20 percent at fault for the accident. If you would otherwise be entitled to a $10,000 award or settlement, it would be reduced to $8,000 based on your 20-percent share of fault.
Of course, this rule controls judge or jury awards in civil lawsuits (if you get to that stage). But before you get to that point, a car insurance claims adjuster will negotiate a settlement with an eye on Connecticut's comparative fault rules. Keep in mind that because there is not a precise method to apportion fault empirically, the ultimate decision as to fault will depend on your ability to negotiate with an insurance claim adjuster, or to convince a judge or jury.
Car insurance is certain to play a part in any claim that's made after a car accident. Connecticut, like most states, requires vehicle owners to maintain financial responsibility for any potential car accident (usually that means carrying certain minimum amounts of liability coverage). So, understanding the Connecticut auto insurance rules is essential to any potential car accident case.