Do I Have to Hire a Lawyer to Defend Me if I’m Sued Over an Auto Accident?
Being sued is something that no one wants to go through. But in some cases, if you are at fault in an auto accident you may be sued by the other driver. Lawsuits can happen in these situations most often when there are severe injuries involved. If you are sued over an auto accident, there are some steps that you should take to protect yourself.
Talking to Your Insurance Company
Your first call when you are in an auto accident should be to your car insurance company. You will need to file a claim, especially if you are the at-fault or negligent party in the accident. Your car insurance is there to pay for damages and medical expenses of other drivers when you are at fault. This is the sum total of what liability car insurance is for, and why it is mandated by most states.
If you are sued over the auto accident, the first thing you should do is contact your car insurance company to let them know about the lawsuit. Your car insurance coverage should pay all of the damages and medical expenses of the other driver automatically when you file a claim, up to the maximums you have set on your policy. The sooner the claim is processed and paid out, the less likely you will have to pay anything on a lawsuit.
However, if the other party’s damages and injuries cost more than your maximums set on your policy, you may be faced with paying out of pocket for the additional costs of the other driver. These cases are more complex and usually require assistance.
Hiring a Lawyer
When you are sued over an auto accident, you should carefully consider hiring a lawyer to represent you in court. Attorneys that deal with auto accidents on a routine basis are much more familiar with the law and rights to compensation than you will be able to educate yourself on your own. Lawyers know the law inside and out and are more likely to be able to get you off the hook for damages that the other party may be trying to get compensation for.
While you can technically represent yourself in a lawsuit, especially in small claims court, you may not want to do so. If the other party is asking for compensation for items such as pain and suffering, the case may become quite arbitrary. If you do not have a good defense, you could wind up paying much more in a lawsuit than if you hire an attorney to represent you.
Another advantage of hiring an attorney to represent you in court is that they can negotiate with the car insurance company for you. The car insurance companies often do not want to pay out any more for a claim than absolutely necessary. If the other driver is suing you for more than the car insurance company wants to pay, your attorney can negotiate with them to get them to cover all of the damages. Often lawsuits over auto accidents can be settled out of court with an experienced attorney working with your car insurance company.
Disadvantages of Representing Yourself
If you choose to represent yourself in court, you will likely wind up paying much more out of pocket. The car insurance companies are not as likely to negotiate with you as they might be with an attorney. They are also less likely to back you up if you were obviously negligent. An attorney often has more pull with the car insurance companies, because if they do not honor the policy to its full extent they know they will be held accountable if an attorney is involved.
Representing yourself has other disadvantages as well. You will be unlikely to settle out of court if you do not have an attorney. It is highly likely that if you are being sued over an auto accident the other party has an attorney. If you don’t want to be pushed into a one-sided agreement, it will likely have to go to court if you don’t have a lawyer.
Once in court, you will not be knowledgeable in the proceedings and the rules of the courtroom. You may be unable to present evidence that would help your case, or know how to produce witnesses. An attorney takes all of this legwork away from you and allows you to focus only on recovering your own losses from the accident.
If you have been in an auto accident, were at fault or negligent in causing the accident, and are being sued, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer to defend you. Working with the attorney and your insurance company will protect you the most.