If you've been injured or had your vehicle damaged after any kind of traffic accident in Nebraska, now is probably a good time to take a close look at your legal options. In this article, we'll discuss a number of state laws that could have a big impact on any car accident claim you decide to make in Nebraska, and we'll look at the legal obligations of drivers when it comes to reporting a crash.
A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court.
It's important to note that 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.
Nebraska Revised Statute 25-207 sets out the statute of limitations that will apply to almost any lawsuit arising from a car accident (except those for wrongful death; more on this later). Section 25-207 gives a prospective plaintiff four years to ask the state courts for a civil remedy for most personal injuries, or when damage is done to personal property.
So, in the context of a vehicle accident, any lawsuit for car accident injuries or damage to a vehicle or other property -- whether brought by a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, pedestrian, or property owner -- must be filed within four years, and the "clock" starts running on the date of the accident.
If someone died as a result of the car accident, and a family member or a representative of the estate wants to file a wrongful death claim, according to Nebraska Revised Statute 30-810, a two year deadline applies, and the "clock" starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the date of the accident itself.
It’s crucial to understand and abide by the statute of limitations as it applies to your situation. That's because if you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has already passed, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate.
Even if you're confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to -- if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you could be running up against the filing deadline, you may want to contact an experienced Nebraska car accident attorney.
Suppose you're seriously injured in a Nebraska car accident, and you take your case to court. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, decides that the other driver was responsible for the accident -- but that you too bear part of the blame. What happens next? How does this verdict affect your right to compensation?
Under Nebraska Revised Statute 25-21, 185.09, the state follows a modified "comparative negligence" rule. This means you can still recover damages in a car-accident-related lawsuit, but your award will be reduced according to your share of negligence. And if your share of fault "is equal to or greater than the total negligence of all persons against whom recovery is sought" (you're deemed equally or more at fault than everyone you're suing, in other words), you can't recover anything at all in court.
For instance, suppose that the jury determines that your injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses total $10,000. However, the jury also thinks that you were 10 percent responsible for the crash. In that situation, the total amount of your damages, $10,000, is reduced by 10 percent, or $1,000, leaving you with a total award of $9,000.
The comparative negligence rule binds Nebraska judges and juries (if your car accident case winds its way to trial), and it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. Also keep in mind that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.
In almost every Nebraska car accident scenario, insurance coverage is sure to play a key role, so it's important to understand the state's liability auto insurance requirements and other coverage rules that could affect your car accident claim. Get the details on Nebraska's car insurance rules.