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You are caught up in a car crash. You cooperate with the police when they arrive at the scene, answer all the questions honestly and exchange insurance information with the other driver. You seek treatment for your injuries and arrange for repairs needed on your car. The whole process is exhausting and you’re glad it has finally come to an end. But, just when you thought it’s over, you discover that the other motorist is bringing a lawsuit against you. What happens when you get sued for a car accident?
While getting sued is distressing, you shouldn’t panic. Nonetheless, you ought to know what goes into a car accident lawsuit and how to handle the situation as outlined below.
The Other Driver Has to Prove Negligence
Car accidents suits are based on the theory of negligence. In deciding to take legal action against you, the other motorist has to show that you were negligent. He or she must:
- Proof that you behaved unreasonably and in so doing you breached the duty of reasonable care you owe to fellow motorists
- Your actions on the road caused the accident and by extension the plaintiff’s injuries
- Following the crash, the plaintiff suffered provable losses
You Are at Fault for the Accident. What Next?
If the other driver can prove beyond reasonable doubt that you are to blame for the accident, call your insurance company and notify them of the lawsuit. Most often, your insurer will try to reach an out of court agreement with the plaintiff. If the company is not successful, the case will go to trial. Be sure to contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible as well.
Depending on where you live, you may reduce or eliminate your liability if you can prove that the other motorist was partly to blame for the accident. If you reside in a state where the theory of Comparative Negligence is applicable, the court will apportion the blame depending on the facts surrounding your case. Here's an example. Scheherezade, a West Hollywood lady, ran into the door of a parked car after the driver opened it and was thrown onto the road. Consequently, another car ran over her left arm. A West Hollywood jury ruled that the driver who ran over Scheherezade was not to blame and that the motorist who opened the door was 65% at fault. Scheherezade was 35% to blame. The award was $103,331 but due to Scheherezade's comparative negligence, the award was lowered to $56,620.
In states where the theory of Contributory Negligence applies, the plaintiff may not recover damages at all if he or she was partly to blame for the accident.
How Much Will You Pay In Damages?
The compensation amount following a car accident lawsuit is determined by a number of factors such as:
- Medical expenses incurred by the plaintiff
- Income lost as a result of missing work
- Emotional distress the plaintiff underwent after the accident
- Property loss
- Loss of enjoyment
Although uncommon, the court may compel you to pay punitive damages. These damages are primarily intended to deter other motorists from committing similar mistakes that led to the accident. It is important to mention that civil damages in a car accident lawsuit are monetary in nature, and you can not be sent to jail if you get sued. However, if you break the law such as driving under the influence of alcohol and as a result a car crash occurs, you can be charged separately by a prosecutor for a criminal offense.
Be Wary Of Your Insurance Company’s Claim Adjuster
While you expect that your insurer will be on the same side as you after a car accident, the company's primary interest is to keep costs down as opposed to clearing your name. Immediately after a car crash, the insurer will dispatch a claim adjuster to gather the facts surrounding your case. Be careful how you relate with the adjuster because he or she may focus on finding out if you did something that will void your coverage. If you’re unsure about anything, don’t give a wrong answer or worse still, tell a lie. Doing so might prove detrimental later on when a lawsuit comes up. As a matter of fact, you’re better off letting a car accident attorney deal with the adjuster on your behalf.When You Cannot Be Sued for a Car Accident
There are times when the other motorist cannot bring a lawsuit for an accident such as:
- When he or she cannot prove that you were at fault
- When the period set by Statute of Limitations is over
- When you're a resident of a no-fault state. In such states, the law does not allow liability claims and suits. Instead the injured person’s insurer pays for the medical bill and lost income up to a certain amount.
Why Do You Need A Lawyer if You Get Sued for A Car Accident?
Car crash lawsuits are expensive, time-consuming and stressful. If you get sued, contact a car accident attorney in your area immediately. The attorney will not only interpret the law but also help you avoid the common mistakes people do when they are faced with such suits. Remember, consultation is free, and you will get answers to all your questions.