What are my options if I’m being sued by an insurance company regarding a car accident?

My dad was in a car accident. The accident consisted of a car switching lanes not giving enough time for him to brake, so he drove into the back of the car. The police wrote a ticket for speeding under conditions and no insurance. Both violations were then dismissed in the district court. The insurance agency that the first driver was in is has now filed a lawsuit against me and wants to take my dad’s driver’s license. What should we be prepared to do?

Asked on August 22, 2014 under Accident Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

From what you write, there was no insurance in place. That  means that you can't forward this to your insurer to defend you or settle the matter, and that if you lose, you'll have to pay whatever amount the court finds you liable for. Your options are 1) settle the case--come to some agreement with the other party to pay an amount you can afford and/or to pay over time (the agreement has to be voluntary for both parties, so they have to agree to it); or 2) defend the case--try to prove that your father was not at fault and/or that the amount they are seeking is excessive--they can only get an amount corresponding to actual costs (e.g. cost to repair a car; medical bills) or the extent of injuries (e.g. "pain and suffering," if there is long-term impairment or disability).

It may be hard to win, however; the law presumes that the rear driver in a rear-ending accident is at fault, since he should have been more alert and/or leaving more distance. It's possible you can show that the other driver was at fault (e.g. switched lanes dangerously), but that will be difficult given both this presumption and a police report citing your father for speeding. From what you write, it appears most likely that you will lose if sued.

You should strongly consider settling, if you can come to an amount you can afford and are willing (even reluctantly) to pay. If you can't settle and lose in court, you may need at that point to consider bankruptcy as an option.

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