If you’ve caused a car accident and somebody’s been injured, they may decide to sue you. If you have insurance, your insurance company will likely handle your defense.
At a later stage, you may be asked to provide evidence or sworn testimony. For the vast majority of car accident lawsuits, they'll settle before trial, but if this isn’t the case with yours, you’ll have to attend trial and testify.
A lawsuit is not the same as a criminal case, so if you lose your trial, this doesn't mean you’ll wind up in jail, however, you’ll probably be ordered to pay money to the plaintiff.
This will hopefully be covered by your insurance, however, it depends on your policy limits, and if the verdict amount exceeds these then it could mean you’ll be held personally responsible.
What happens when someone files a lawsuit against you?
The lawsuit begins when the plaintiff files a “complaint” in court, which will contain their version of the facts and the claims they’re making against you.
You’ll be known as the defendant, and will receive a copy of the complaint document. Upon receiving this, you should aim to notify your insurance company as quickly as possible so they can begin defending you.
Next, the insurance company will assign a lawyer to represent your case, and the lawyer will then file an “answer” with the court on your behalf, they may also file “motions”, which are legal documents that request that the court makes a preliminary decision on certain aspects of the case.
Once your lawyer has filed their answer or motions, the lawsuit moves into the “discovery” phase, which is when each party is given the opportunity to discover information about the other side’s case.
Your lawyer is likely to ask you about how the accident happened and may ask you to answer written questions provided by the plaintiff, or provide documents or information in support of your version of events.
It’s important to fully cooperate with your lawyer, as they know best how to handle the case.
In your lawsuit, you may also have to attend a deposition, where you’ll answer questions asked by the lawyer for the other side, under oath.
This is usually done in a conference room, and a court reporter will take down everything that is said. The deposition is a vital part of the case, as the testimony you give here may be used in a motion that will end your case, or it could be used to damage your testimony at trial.
It’s unlikely that your case will end in trial however, unless it’s particularly complex or serious. Most lawsuits are settled through negotiations, though if yours isn’t and the case does go to trial, it may be heard by a judge or by a jury.
If your case does go to trial, you’ll probably be required to attend and testify. If you lose, you’ll have to pay the plaintiff, but if you win, you won’t pay anything. So long as your insurance policy covers the damages, the insurance company will cover everything.
After a trial, the losing party has the right to appeal the case to a higher court. In order to appeal a decision, lawyers must make written arguments as to why the court made the wrong rulings, referencing the law and providing evidence to back up their points.
After an appeal, it’s possible for the ruling to change or for additional hearings to take place.
Things to consider
You’ll be assigned an attorney who will represent both yourself and the insurance company.
It’s worth remembering that this attorney will be working for both of you, which could result in them trying to save the insurance company money at your expense.
Your insurance policy
If your insurance covers the damages caused by the accident, you shouldn’t have to pay out of your own pocket.
A lawsuit is usually filed when the defendant has insufficient insurance to cover damages, if they have no insurance at all, or if the process is taking too long, in which case, a lawsuit is often a quicker route for the plaintiff to take.
Occasionally a lawyer may put pressure on you to change your story, mainly because they have other interests at stake. In this case, it’s wise to not change your story as you could end up getting caught out, and this won’t reflect well on your case.
The best thing to do if your lawyer is pressuring you to change your story is to talk with the insurance company and ask them to appoint you a different lawyer.
It can be stressful and upsetting to have a lawsuit filed against you but try to stay calm. Before doing anything else, call your insurance company and provide them with a copy of the paperwork you have received.
You should also confirm with them the limits of your policy and whether or not it covers the amount you need to pay.
If you’re using a lawyer from the insurance company, ensure they have your best interests and that you fully trust them, if you feel like they’re pressuring you to change your story, it’s best to change your lawyer.
Any lawsuit is stressful to be a part of, but thankfully, most car accident lawsuits will be settled without the need for them to be taken to trial. So long as you have adequate insurance, it should cover the costs of the damages, so you won’t have to pay out of your own pocket.
If you don’t have insurance, or your insurance limits are too low, things are a little more complex, and your payment will need to come from your own finances and assets unless you win the case.
The main thing is to ensure you have a good lawyer representing you, who has your best interests and not just those of the insurance company.
Thank you for visiting. This website is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided is intended to constitute, nor does it constitute, legal advice, and none of the information necessarily reflects the opinions of Misty Rock Capital LLC dba whocanisue.com or anyone associated, employed or affiliated with Misty Rock Capital LLC dba whocanisue.com.