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Preparing for Liability Lawsuits

It's wintertime and you're driving down an unfamiliar stretch of road. Locals know about the "black ice" that can build up under Bronson Road Bridge midway through the next gentle bend. But all you know is the posted speed. You're staying pretty close to the limit. It rained earlier in the day; the road is dry for the most part. Seems there's nothing to worry about... That's when disaster strikes! One moment the car is under your control and the next it's sliding into oncoming traffic, out of control. Thankfully, the other car swerves to avoid a head-on collision, but you still clip its back end, tearing off the bumper, and sending both cars into opposite ditches. Unusual? Not really. According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, accidents like this fictional one happen every 10 seconds all across America. They typically end amicably, with the exchange of insurance information, a call to police, and maybe a tow truck. Repairs are made, perhaps even medical bills reimbursed by the responsible party's insurance company. But increasingly, that's not where it ends: No, some smell money in the air, and plenty of it. Others are legitimately injured beyond the liability coverage the responsible driver carried on their vehicle, so must sue to cover lost work and medical bills. Regardless of the reasons inspiring the lawsuit, what if your are sued? Is your provider the one being sued? Or is the lawsuit against you? And what should you do?! First thing to do, if you are insured against liability, is relax.

Yes, They Are Suing YOU

The injured party isn't suing an insurer. They are, unfortunately, suing the individual they assert is responsible for the accident. That would be you. But again, relax! If you had the proper coverage on your vehicle and your premiums were up to date, you have the strength of your carrier and its host of lawyers backing you up. That is, after all, one of the key benefits of carrying liability protection. After contacting your carrier, they will advise you on what you should do. But there is nothing more frightening than the unknown. That's why this information is being offered here, in advance of a lawsuit. Bear in mind that there are untold numbers of people, including accident lawyers, out there who will tell you to hire an attorney, or give you other incorrect advice. Ignore it! Listen to your provider's advice.

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

And let this be a primer to take away some of the mystery:

  • If you are notified that a lawsuit will be filed against you for your alleged part in an accident, contact your insurer and inform them that you've received notice of a pending lawsuit.
  • If an attorney or a representative from the other carrier phones you, say nothing to admit fault and answer no questions. Instead refer them to your insurer. If they won't accept that, politely say good-bye and hang up the phone.
  • If an attorney or an insurance company sends you a letter or other written communication, forward copies of it to your insurance company representative.
  • Because your provider's attorneys will try to reach a settlement with the injured party suing you, that may well be the last you hear of it.
  • Your carrier may only ask you to submit a standard claim.
  • If the lawsuit cannot be settled and goes to trial, a deposition may be required from you.

But your carrier's legal staff are well-trained and well-paid to protect you and their company's interests in such situations. They are going to handle everything for you. If however, you were not carrying sufficient auto liability insurance? That is another matter altogether - and you will be responsible for hiring an attorney and all the attendant costs. That sound like a frightening prospect? Then perhaps you should look into purchasing liability protection today!

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