I get many questions from people who have been involved in car accidents and were later sued by the other person or the other person’s insurance company. What should you do? If you had liability insurance at the time of the accident, then promptly refer the matter to your insurance company. All you have to do is call your claims adjuster and tell them that you have just been sued and served with court papers. They will instruct you on how to forward the papers to them. Your insurance company has a duty to defend you in such cases. Your insurance company will even hire and pay for a lawyer to defend you in court. However, you must notify your insurance company as soon as possible once you are served with the court papers. If you do not notify them of the lawsuit, then you might be deemed to have waived coverage. Likewise, the cost of defending the suit will become your responsibility.
You also have the right to file a counter-claim against the other driver if you think the accident was the other driver’s fault. However, the lawyer hired by your insurance company will not likely handle that part of your case. You will probably be instructed to obtain your own car accident lawyer to pursue any counter-claims you wish to make.
If you did not have insurance at the time of the accident, then you must either hire an attorney to defend the lawsuit or be prepared to defend the case yourself (which is something I would not recommend). Do not just ignore the case. If you do, then a default judgment will be taken against you and you will lose your opportunity to defend the case. I always advise people in these situations to hire an attorney and try to defend the case. You never know how car accident cases turn out, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to win the case.
If you end up with a judgment against you, then your insurance company will either satisfy the judgment or appeal the case. It will be up to the adjuster on how to handle the judgment. If you did not have insurance and a judgment is entered against you, then you have an even bigger problem. In Texas, for example, if you did not have the state minimum insurance at the time of the accident and you fail to satisfy the judgment, then the defendant can apply to the Texas Department of Public Safety to have your drivers license suspended until you satisfy the judgment. Your vehicle registration may also be suspended so long as the judgment remains outstanding.
So, the lesson to be learned here is simple: Always make sure you are carrying the state required insurance at all times. If you don’t, then the consequences can be far more expensive than the insurance premiums you are saving.