If you want to know what happens if someone sues you after a car accident, read this article carefully. Being sued for a car accident, is not pleasant at all. But did you know that 95% of car accident cases settle before trial?
Asking why is this? Well, let me explain this.
In this article we’ll talk about the main difference between a car accident judgment and a settlement.
Table of Contents
Car Accident: Settlement vs. Judgement
After a car accident, there will be either a settlement or a judgment, but what is the difference between these and which is better?
A settlement takes place outside court while a judgment takes place in the courtroom. Settlements are usually preferred though, so let’s take a look at why that is.
Imagine you have a car accident and get sued. You will, in this case, be the defendant. The person suing you will be the plaintiff.
First of all, the plaintiff’s attorneys are going to file a claim on your insurance. This claim will include such things as police records, medical records and eyewitness testimony. They will try to prove to your insurance company that the accident was completely your fault and the plaintiff suffered damages or injury because of it.
The next step is the plaintiff’s attorneys and your insurance company starting to negotiate. Your insurance company will likely want to settle early if they find the evidence proves it was indeed your fault. The reason for this is that if the case goes to trial the judge will probably award more money to the plaintiff than they would actually settle for.
If the evidence is not compelling, your insurance company might offer the plaintiff a lower figure. Your plaintiff’s attorneys will then probably ask for more, and this process continues until a number which satisfies both parties is achieved. If no agreement can be reached, then the case goes to trial.
This is where the judge gets to decide the verdict, the amount that must be paid, and who is entitled to it. The plaintiff’s attorney will present their evidence, as will your insurance company. The judge’s decision is final, meaning you cannot negotiate it any more or accept an offer which was made before the ruling. This is why settling is typically the better option.
Insurance Companies Prefer to Settle
If you have insurance and get in a car accident, your insurance company will probably pay, not you. It is in their best interests to settle quickly for a number of reasons which we will get to.
Your insurance company will push for a settlement because it is in their best interests to close the claim as soon as possible.
If you are the plaintiff rather than the defendant, you will also probably prefer a settlement because that way you know how much you are going to get. Consult your attorney before accepting any settlement offer though.
Trials Can Be Unpredictable
Although the insurance company will definitely prefer settlement over a trial, the plaintiff’s attorney probably feels the same too. This is because trials are unpredictable and anything can happen. Defendants and plaintiffs will try for a settlement before a trial to minimize risks and avoid an unexpected judgment.
There is some degree of certainly with a settlement, even if neither the defendant nor plaintiff gets exactly what they wanted. With a settlement, the plaintiff can be assured of getting at least something, while the defendant can avoid a worse verdict and higher cost. Either of those are possibilities in court and there is no way of knowing exactly how things will go or avoiding either of those two outcomes.
Plaintiffs Don’t Want to Wait for Payment
The plaintiff in a car accident is going to want to get paid as soon as possible rather than waiting for a court date. They might have expenses such as lost wages and medical bills to cover. They might get deeper into debt if they have to wait to go to court rather than settle immediately.
When an insurance company agrees to an amount, they will pay it out quickly, making settlement better than a lawsuit. There is no guarantee of collection when receiving a judgment in court, because if the sum the judge awards is more than the defendant’s liability policy, the defendant has to pay the remainder out of pocket, and there is no guarantee they can.
Therefore the fastest way to get paid quickly and in full is to settle.
Everyone Wants to Save Money on Litigation after an Accident
Litigation can cost a fortune and cases can drag on for years. Expert witness must be hired and depositions must be attended, and those are just two of the costs that can be involved in a suit. A 5-figure price tag can be reached even before the trial and this is going to double for the actual trial. The defendant and plaintiff are going to incur these high costs so will want to avoid them if at all possible. An early settlement would accomplish this.
What to Do if You are Sued for a Car Accident?
- Find out what you are being sued for
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible
- Write your insurance company a letter
After a car accident, everyone wants to get on with their life. A defendant will want to put the whole thing behind them, while a plaintiff will want to get over their injury and insurance companies want to close claims fast. Agreeing on a settlement saves a lot of time (as well as expense) when compared to going to trial.
If you are a driver, it is important to be aware of the above if you have been contacted by someone claiming they were injured in an accident caused by you, or if you have been sued.