Nobody wants to be on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Dealing with your insurer and putting the pieces of your life back together after an automobile collision is already hard enough, but legal battles and insurance companies can make it even harder. Naturally, you might feel pretty worried after finding out that someone is suing you, but there is no need to panic. In many cases, defendants never have to pay a single penny. You want to know what’s going on and how to protect yourself from liability, so check out this comprehensive guide on what to do if you’re being sued after a car accident.

Why Are They Suing Me Instead of My Insurance Company?

Usually, your insurer will negotiate with the other party’s insurance company to cover the cost of an accident. However, the insurance company may deny liability and refuse to compensate the other party, or the extent of your liability coverage might not sufficiently cover the other person’s damages. In such cases, suing you is one of the few ways for the other party to pursue what they consider rightful compensation for a personal injury or other damages resulting from the accident.

What Should I Do Immediately After Being Served With a Lawsuit?

Contact Your Insurer

Once you’re aware of the lawsuit, you need to contact your insurance company. They will give you more details on how to proceed. Under the terms of your policy, your insurer is compelled to provide you with legal representation. Nonetheless, they may refuse to pay for an attorney. If you believe that your insurance company is not upholding the terms of your policy, then you may want to sue them to get the coverage that you deserve.

Call a Qualified Attorney

Even if your insurer provides you with a lawyer, an insurance company’s lawyer is more interested in protecting the insurance company’s interests. For this reason, you should seriously consider hiring your own attorney. An outside lawyer will only represent your interests in court. In turn, you will be more likely to reach a desirable outcome. They will give you an honest overview of your options during your first meeting with them, so reaching out to a good lawyer for a consultation is surely worth your time.

Don’t Panic

Nobody wants to deal with a car accident lawsuit. The prospect of losing tens of thousands of dollars can be unnerving for anyone. Nonetheless, if you want to get through this, then you’re going to have to maintain your composure. Panicking will just cause you to make poor decisions that could negatively impact your case. If you’re feeling anxious after being served with a lawsuit, then you should take a deep breath and reach out to a qualified attorney. A good lawyer will keep you informed, take care of all of the complex details of your case, and do everything in their power to ensure that you get the best possible outcome.

Do I Have To Pay the Other Party?

If the court rules in the plaintiff’s favor, then you will have to pay a settlement. Although you may try to get around this by refusing to send a check, the other party can take you back to court to garnish your wages. The court cannot imprison you for failure to pay damages, but the other party will work night and day to legally collect what you owe them. If you are in a bad financial situation, then you can try to negotiate a new deal with the other party. Alternatively, you may be able to discharge some or all of your lawsuit-related debt by filing for bankruptcy, but this should only be a last resort. A lawsuit can severely impact your financial wellbeing, so it’s a good idea to hire an experienced attorney to protect your interests.

What if I Ignore the Lawsuit?

You have 20 days to officially respond to a lawsuit. If you do not file your response by the first Monday morning after the 20-day period, then the court will render a default judgment. When this happens, you will be subject to their ruling without any legal representation. The judge will only hear the other side’s story, meaning that you will likely have to pay a hefty settlement. You might believe that the evidence against you makes your case a lost cause. In turn, you might feel like hiring a lawyer would be a waste of time and money, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. No matter how unfavorable the details of your case are, a lawyer can negotiate better terms than you would receive under a default ruling.

What if I Didn’t Have Auto Insurance at the Time of the Accident?

You will have to your legal fees out of pocket if you lacked the necessary insurance at the time of the crash. While this is unfortunate, you shouldn’t let it dissuade you from hiring a lawyer. Spending a little money on legal representation now can save you tens of thousands of dollars when the trial is over. Even if you’re short on cash, most law offices offer payment plans that work for clients in all kinds of financial situations.

Could I Face Jail Time?

Unless you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, hit a pedestrian without reporting it, or committed some sort of crime at the time of the accident, you will not face time in jail. Even if you did commit a crime in relation to the accident, the police and a relevant criminal court will open a separate case against you. A civil court will conduct the lawsuit proceedings, and per Texas law, you cannot be incarcerated as a result of a civil case. Lawsuits primarily come down to financial liability, so you may have to pay damages if the court finds that you were sufficiently negligent.

Should I Settle?

The other party may offer to settle for a specified amount instead of taking the case all the way to trial. When you agree to a settlement, you’ll know exactly what you’re going to pay. In contrast, trials are very unpredictable, and you could end up paying far more or much less than expected. When deciding whether to take it to trial or settle, you should consult with a lawyer who has your best interests at heart. They will have a good idea of the pros and cons of each option, and they can fill you in on all relevant details to help you make a more informed decision.

How Can I Strengthen My Case?

Gather Evidence

Before the judge decides on a final ruling, they’ll take all evidence from each side into account to determine the extent of each party’s liability. Therefore, it’s important to have as much evidence that paints you in a good light as possible. You should reach out to witnesses, ask for surveillance footage from local businesses, take pictures of the scene, and pursue every possible avenue for more evidence to bolster your case.

Share All Details With Your Lawyer

If a new piece of evidence in your favor comes up, then you should immediately make copies of it and notify your lawyer. After all, you don’t want useful evidence to disappear before you can use it. Likewise, you should let your lawyer know about any details that the other side could use against you. When you maintain clear and consistent communication with your legal representative, they will be in a better position to speak in your favor and anticipate the other party’s strategy.

Avoid Talking About the Case

The plaintiff’s lawyer is going to try to gather as much evidence against you as possible. They will talk to friends, family members, and anyone else in your life to prove that your negligence was a factor in the accident. A simple comment about the crash to an acquaintance may seem innocent enough in the moment. However, even the tiniest shred of information can make a huge difference in court, so you should only speak to your lawyer about the case until the trial has concluded.

Can I Represent Myself in Court?

While the law doesn’t prohibit defendants from representing themselves in court, it is usually a terrible idea. A lot of complicated details go into conducting a trial. You have to file several confusing petitions by strict deadlines, follow precise rules of order, and understand all relevant laws to make a good legal argument. Unless you’ve extensively studied the law and represented clients in court for years, you will likely lose the case if you represent yourself. While the prospect of not paying a lawyer may seem tempting, you will almost certainly pay more in the end without an expert’s help.

Contact a Trusted Attorney Today

When you’re being sued, you don’t want to take any chances. Without the right lawyer, you could be liable for tens of thousands of dollars in damages. Good legal representation is the only way to protect your financial interests, so you should reach out to PM Law Firm today to explore your options.