You and your wife finally had a date night and had gone to the symphony at the Klein Memorial Auditorium. You really did enjoy it, although your wife had to nudge you a few times out of your peaceful slumber during the performance. Just as you were exiting the parking lot across the street, an SUV rear-ended you. Had everyone fallen asleep? You were certainly bright eyed and bushy-tailed now. What should you do? What happens next? Here is some basic information to help you navigate your car accident in Bridgeport.
For a general overview, you may wish to first check out the FindLaw section on Car Accident Liability. Then return here for information specific to Fairfield County.
The first things to do after an accident in Bridgeport are to stop, give your identifying information (name, address, and driver's license and registration numbers) to the other driver, and provide any needed assistance. Depending on the seriousness of the accident, failure to follow these provisions can result in fines up to $10,000, imprisonment of 1-10 years, or both.
If for any reason you cannot provide your identifying information to the other driver, witness or officer at the scene, you will need to make a report to the nearest police station or precinct.
After making sure that any immediate needs are attended to, you may wish to spend a bit of time collecting any additional information you can about the incident. This can include getting contact information of any witnesses, taking photographs, jotting down details about what happened, etc. Here is a useful pamphlet on first steps following a car accident (PDF), with additional tips and space to record your data.
The next item on the agenda is generally contacting your insurance company to report the accident. You are required to maintain liability insurance on any motor vehicle registered in Connecticut. The minimum amounts required are $20,000 for each injured person (up to $40,000 per accident) and $10,000 for property damage per accident. However, your particular policy may cover more than this.
You are also required to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This covers bodily injury to you or your passengers in case you are involved in an accident with a driver who is not carrying sufficient insurance. The minimum amount required is $20,000 per person ($40,000 per accident), although again, your particular policy may cover more than this.
Most car accident cases are based on one party alleging that the other was negligent. Basically, to act negligently is to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to the accident. In many cases, however, both parties are negligent - what happens then?
In a few states, if you were even 1% at fault, you are prohibited from recovering damages in an action against the other driver. However, in Bridgeport and the rest of Connecticut, under the theory of modified comparative negligence, so long as you were no more than 50% negligent, you can still pursue your action, although your recovery will be reduced in proportion to your fault.
So, for example, if you had $10,000 in total damages and you were 30% at fault, you could still pursue recovery for 70% or $7,000.
Bringing A Lawsuit
Depending on the extent of the accident, you may wish to consult an attorney and consider filing a lawsuit. Make sure not to wait too long. In Bridgeport and the rest of the state you generally have 2 years to bring a negligence claim.
Your case will likely be heard in the Civil Division of the Superior Court at 1061 Main Street in Bridgeport, although if your damages are less than $5000, you might consider bringing your case in the Small Claims Court.
Depending on the extent of your injuries and property damage, there are several types of damages you can claim following a car accident in Bridgeport, including medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. Check out this FindLaw article on Economic Recovery for Accidents and Injuries for more information on the types of damages that may be recoverable.
Last, but not least, the above was a general overview of the law around car accidents in Bridgeport. You may want to talk to an attorney specializing in car accidents to address the specifics of your particular case. Many offer free consultations and work on a contingent fee basis, which means they don't get paid until and unless you win your case.
Contact a qualified attorney.