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When You’re Being Sued for a Car Accident

ELI5: Negligence

When you’re being sued for a car accident, take a deep breath and relax. 

What Am I Going to Do? 

If you were recently involved in a car crash, and now your insurance company has called you claiming the other person filed a claim, it may be intimidating or scary, especially if you didn’t mean to cause the crash. Maybe you’re worried about how you’re going to come up with the tens of thousands of dollars to resolve the claim. If that’s the case, take a deep breath, and remember that this is what insurance companies are for. When you pay for insurance, you’re  paying for that insurance company to represent your interests in the case you cause an accident, and cover damages that you may have caused. So even if the injured party and your insurance company settle a case for $10,000, you’re not going to pay for that settlement out of your own pocket—however there’s a chance your insurance premiums may increase. Having insurance is supposed to prevent you from bearing the financial responsibility of any injuries that you cause while driving. Usually, insurance companies negotiate a settlement with the injured party or their personal injury attorney. Remember, your insurance company has an obligation to protect you and your personal interests. If they can settle the case within the limits of your insurance policy, they should! If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, the case may go to court. In this situation, the insurance company is required to provide you with an attorney for your defense. However, your interests and those of the insurance company may not always be the same. Your insurance wants to pay the minimum amount possible to resolve the claim. You want to resolve the claim within the limits of your policy, so that you don’t have any personal liability. If your insurance company and the attorney they assign you is putting the insurance company’s interests a head of your own, don’t be afraid to get your own, independent counsel— one that will look out for your best interests. And even if there is a judgment against you, the insurance company will cover that (up to the policy limit) along with the cost of your defense. 

If the injured party agreed to resolve the claim within the policy limits, but your insurance company refused, and then you are faced with a judgment beyond the limits of your insurance policy, you may be afraid that you are going to have to pay that amount yourself. More often than not, the insurance company will pay that excess judgment, otherwise, you would have a new claim against your own insurance company because they acted in “bad faith” and didn’t put your interests ahead of that of the insurance company. If you end up with an excess judgment against you, now you may want to consult with an attorney to discuss pursuing your own claim against your insurance company.  

“What If I Don’t Have Insurance?” 

Driving around without insurance is very dangerous—both for you and your wallet. Moreover, it’s illegal. For example, some states have “no pay, no play” laws which restrict your ability to collect compensation if you’re injured and you also don’t have insurance. While most people think they won’t have to pay if they don’t have the financial resources to cover a settlement or judgment, that isn’t always true. You can be ordered to pay, even if you don’t presently have enough money to cover the lawsuit. If you have caused a car accident, and you do not have insurance, you need to speak with an attorney who can help you decide what your next step should be. 

“What If It Wasn’t My Fault?” 

Sometimes it can be hard to admit if you were at fault for the collision. If deep down, you know you were at fault, take solace in that you’ve paid for insurance to take care of you in this situation. If you truly weren’t at fault, don’t be afraid to consult with a personal injury at attorney. Give them the facts and evidence and see what they say.  If you weren’t at fault, and you have your own injuries, you should get an attorney to represent your injuries and interests. Remember, the insurance company’s attorney is only there to defend you against the claim made against you, they aren’t there to assert that you’ve been injured due to the other driver’s negligence. You’ll need a different attorney for that. When you’re in a car accident, you should always report the car accident to your insurance company as soon as you possibly can. If you end up getting sued, or notified of a claim by a law office, contact your insurance company immediately and let them handle the legal proceedings, that’s what they’re there for; that’s a big part of what you’re paying them to do. Even if you end up being found at fault, the insurance company will likely cover all the costs of the settlement/judgment and your defense. Again, that’s what insurance companies are for in the first place. So, to reiterate, if you are being sued for a car accident that was your fault, it’s important to let the insurance companies figure that out. 

“Why Am I Being Sued for So Much?” 

Without knowing the individual circumstances, it’s impossible to say how a party or personal injury attorney arrived at the amount they did when the claim was filed. However, generally speaking, many personal injury attorneys typically want to capture as much of their client’s damages as possible, and then negotiate the settlement. Most cases are settled or resolved without going to trial. Trials can be long, expensive, and unpredictable. In most cases, the client who’s been injured needs the compensation sooner rather than later. Usually, this means that they’re willing to settle for a lower amount, as long as that amount still covers all their expenses. In a lot of cases, the aforementioned helps the injured party get fair compensation for the injuries they’ve sustained. If you are being sued for more than your policy limit, you could technically be liable for any excess judgment. It’s rare that a plaintiff’s attorney will want to sue you personally for an excessive judgment, especially if you do not have the resources to cover the cost of the excess judgment. However, as mentioned above, if you have a bad faith claim, they may be willing to take that claim on in exchange for not pursuing the judgment against you individually. (See our Bad Faith discussion above). 

When You’ve Been Injured 

If you’ve been injured, and you need an attorney, Moxie Law Group is here for you. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

Close up of a quarter and a penny.

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