If you have been involved in a car accident and the other party decides to sue you or take legal action against you, the first thing that you need to do is stay calm. Although being sued is a panicky situation, but if you act intelligently, you can almost negate your legal liabilities. Here are 10 tips to remember if you end up in a lawsuit.
1. Remember, you can’t actually be sued if you live in a no fault state. The 12 no-fault states in the United States are: Florida, Kansas, Hawaii, Minnesota, Kentucky, New Jersey, Michigan, North Dakota, New York, Utah, Pennsylvania and District of Columbia. Under some car insurance policies this no fault policy is also known as personal injury protection. Under PIP rules, lawsuits and liability claims are not allowed and instead the injured person’s insurance company is directly responsible for the payment of lost wages and medical bills up to a certain dollar amount. So as soon as you get involved in an accident, it is clever on your part to do your research first and figure out whether liabilities and lawsuits apply to your state.
2. It is wiser to settle your personal injury lawsuits out of court. This requires that your insurance company and you make an offer of reimbursement to the plaintiff and explain to him how it is in their mutual benefit to make out of court settlement. If plaintiff agrees, that is the complete amount he/she receives from you and gives up his or her right to sue. The case doesn’t go for trial. Settling out of court also allows to limit any potential risk to you as you are clear on how much you need to pay. Moreover, if someone sues you, your insurance company generally has to pay the costs of defending the lawsuit and damages to your plaintiff as a settlement, up to your policy limit.
3. Immediately after the accident, inform your insurance company as it is their job to deal with this kind of thing. Any correspondences or letters that you receive from the other party involved in the incident has to be forwarded to your insurers so they can help you devise a solution. If you try to handle the situation yourself, you may in effect be discharging the insurance company of their duties and will in effect be turning the case against you.
4. If you face any sort of threats or intimidation by the other party, immediately inform the police. Nobody except the authorities have a right to question you regarding the incident, let alone threatening. Do not make any statements to the other party or others around you.
5. If you find out that you have been sued, consult your attorney immediately. Your attorney makes sure valuable evidence is not destroyed and will protect your rights. Often insurance companies want immediate statements, but it is wiser to provide statements after taking legal advice. Legal attorneys make sure you are compensated for your damages and make you get the best medical treatment available. Do not make any attempts of representing yourself on your own at the trial. It is likely to be one skilled legal battle and in such a scenario, facts of the incident will be of little regard.
6. Moreover, after consulting an attorney it is also wise to speak to your local citizen’s advice bureau. They will tell you whether you have a claim for your property damage or personal injury. If your insurance company may not be giving you any further compensation that is owed to you, you may benefit from speaking to someone at your CAB before employing anyone else to help you. They will also advice you on whether legal representation is requires and if you have more chances at claim. They also have specialist solicitors who speak on your behalf and increase your chances of a successful claim.
7. Done discuss the scene with anybody around, other than the policeman, your attorney and your insurance company or CAB. If you do, you may be spoiling your case for you as different people will come up with different advice and judgments to confuse you.
8. You might also want to inform your employer that you have been sued and have a pending lawsuit, if you have a security clearance. Check with you human resource officials to determine what your company’s protocol is for a lawsuit.
9. The plaintiff’s attorney might ask you question pertaining to the accident and other issues and you must answer all those questions truthfully, make no attempts to lie as it might turn your case against you. Do not laugh, smirk or make any gestures or movements that might make you appear unlikeable. When your attorney says you have to be somewhere at a specific time, make sure you follow instructions because this is not a request, it is a demand. Be the best client for your attorney.
10. If there have been any property damage or personal injuries, make sure you also file a claim with your insurance company and inform your attorney about it. If you don’t file written claims with your insurer, your insurer might be relieved of its obligation towards you to defend you in lawsuits and won’t reimburse you for judgments that are in your favor. If you can keep a written record of all evidences including statements by the other effected party, photographs if the event, your car, surroundings, and any injuries. Also if there are any eye-witnesses around, note down their personal information as you may need them. Maintain a file of all evidences and keep them safe as you might need them to defend you in lawsuits.