General Question

poofandmook's avatar

What happens when you're the defendant in a civil suit over a car accident?

Asked by poofandmook (17272points) May 18th, 2010

In short, I got into an accident May 28th of last year and I was legally at fault. Today I got a copy of some papers filed a few days ago that I’m the defendant of a civil suit.

I’m being told that my insurance company handles all of this, but obviously at this time of night I can’t talk to anyone about it.

I don’t know anything about this kind of thing; can anyone (especially Jerseyans) help me out here?

I know it’s a vague question, but I don’t really have a specific question. I have a million of them. I’m asking for any kind of input, if the mods will allow it.

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12 Answers

jerv's avatar

In short, the other person must sue you before insurance will pay.

My mother had to sue my stepfather when he totalled her car in a single-vehicle accident. He didn’t have to pay a penny (the insurance paid the damages (minus the deductible)) but he had to be named as the defendant before the insurance would accept the claim.

poofandmook's avatar

@jerv: So what you’re saying is that my insurance hasn’t paid anything out to them yet?

jerv's avatar

@poofandmook Probably not. It’s possible that they have a heap of unpaid bills :P

I wouldn’t worry too much though.

janbb's avatar

Your insurance prboboably paid for their damages but theye may be suing for pain and suffering or injuries above that. i was involved in a New Jersey accident 7years ago and was deemed at fault and sued. It was very unpleasant and took 5 years to settle, but the insurance company id pay for the lawyer and all expenses and although there was a settlement, I was not out any money at all.

evandad's avatar

I believe they have a year to file the suit. Since they took almost the full year could be either good or bad. Good if they didn’t bother because it wasn’t a big deal. Bad if they’ve been preparing for this the whole year. They could have been going to physical therapy for the entire time in preparation. Since it may be near the end of the therapy it will be hard to say it’s bogus. They could have made the required appearances with their neck braces on. Keep your fingers crossed that it’s the good rather than the bad.

poofandmook's avatar

My roommate said that one good thing on my side is that they didn’t accept an ambulance or medical treatment at the scene… is that good for me, or does it not matter?

perspicacious's avatar

It doesn’t matter if they accepted anything at the scene. Injuries sometimes do not surface for a while. Your insurance company will handle this; that’s what you pay them for. Most of the time a settlement will be reached because your insurance company doesn’t really want to incur the expense of a trial. Be cool until you talk to your agent. I don’t know NJ law; this is simply an opinion, not legal advice.

filmfann's avatar

I was in an accident about 6 years ago. It was obviously the other drivers fault (they crossed over the double yellow line, and hit me head on). I went to their insurance, and the insurance co. offered me a small amount.
A month later, they offered a little more.
A month later, they offered about 6 times what they originally offered. I took it.
Had I not taken it, I would have had to go to court, and sue the other driver. The insurance company would have paid more, but my lawyer would have gotten a lot of it.
I am guessing the other driver in your accident wanted more than the final offer. The insurance company is still responsable for an amount up to your amount of coverage.
If you are covered for, say, $50,000 liablity, and the court awards them $75,000 , you will be responsable for the other $25K. And figure your rates are gonna jump.

SuperMouse's avatar

I was in an accident where I was at fault. I will never forget that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach when I was served with the lawsuit papers. The process server told me to call my insurance company first thing the next morning (why can’t they serve these things during regular business hours). I did exactly that. They took care of everything – I mean everything – from there. A couple of months went by and I was called to a mediation hearing. The plaintiff sat and lied through her teeth about her injuries and how hard her car hit mine and no one asked me a single question. I know my insurance company gave her something and the whole thing got settled, but I don’t know how much or how long it took. As long as you have decent liability insurance you will be fine.

john65pennington's avatar

You are being sued because of being at-fault in the accident. you already know this. your insurance company should suppy an attorney for you, since their money is involved. once you meet with your attorney, he will explain all the details to you. its rare for a civil case, like yours, to go to court, unless there is personal injury or an excessive amount of property damage involved. most cases are settled out of court. your attorney will advise you.

jca's avatar

the bad thing is your insurance will go up in the future. the insurance company will provide you with legal assistance, that’s why you have insurance. sometimes the original suit is for a million dollars or some huge amount but then when all is said and done a few years down the road, the settlement is for way way less. i think it is good (despite what someone else said) that they were not taken from the scene by ambulance, since it shows that they were not that badly messed up. these details will come out in disposition – where they were going, where they went afterward, did they miss time off work, and any and all doctors they saw will submit their paperwork showing what was done. believe me, if they drove away from the scene and went to work or went to a party is very different from someone who was taken by ambulance to the hospital or had to be driven home and seen several doctors and stayed home for a week or two. i’m sure it’s anxiety producing but try not to get too nervous – this is what you pay insurance for. also, if anybody contacts you personally, direct them to the insurance company attorney.

anartist's avatar

If you don’t settle out of court, you end up going to court but not with a jury in a public courtroom, but rather a judge, a couple of litigants and their insurers and a couple of lawyers, your lawyer often provided by the insurance company. Check with your insurance company. If you are the plaintiff lawyers will jump out of trees trying to find you.

I was in one of these that had about 4 lawyers and 3 insurance companies . . . I was a plaintiff. A car hit a taxi that hit my car which was parked. I had an attorney. The cabbie had an attorney. The driver who hit the cabbie had an attorney. My own insurance company sent an attorney. There was a lot of horse trading and it was over.

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