Question: I was recently involved in a car accident. The other driver was clearly at fault. The police report is in my favor and there are witnesses. The other driver’s insurance company has already inspected my car and said they were going to pay for the damages. However, I just got a letter from an attorney stating that he represents the other driver. Why would he get an attorney and what should I do?
Robert’s Answer: Under these circumstances, it does seem strange that the other driver may hire an attorney. However, there are a few reasons why this would happen. The first, and most likely reason, is that the other driver may dispute the accident and claim it was your fault. He may also claim he was hurt and hired a personal injury attorney. However, my suspicion is that, once the other attorney figures out that the police report and witnesses are against his client, the attorney will probably drop the case.
A second reason might be because of a letter he received from his own insurance company. When you filed your claim against the driver’s insurance company, he probably received a series of routine form letters and legal notices. Sometimes these letters include a notice that a claim has been filed for personal injuries. The letter may go on to describe what coverage limits he has on his policy and warns the other driver that, if a judgment is ultimately entered against him in excess of his coverage limits, he would be personally responsible for the excess amount. Although these letters are merely routine notices, it may scare some people enough to consult with an attorney.
The third reason the other driver is retaining an attorney may be because there is a problem with his insurance coverage. It’s possible that he had no coverage at the time of the accident or that the insurance company is disputing or investigating the coverage matter. If his insurance carrier rejects coverage for the accident, then the driver would be liable to you for the whole amount of the claim.
Most importantly, if you get any letter from the other driver, his insurance company, or an attorney that either threatens a claim against you or disputes coverage for the accident, then you need to notify your insurance company of the letter so that they can address the matter and prepare to defend you in case a claim is made against you. Failure to notify your insurance company of these matters could result in coverage being denied to you. Furthermore, you may need to make a claim on your own policy if it turns out that the other driver did not have coverage for the car accident.