If I’m being sued in civil court for an auto accident that happened 2 years ago, should I get an attorney?

I was in an automobile accident two years ago while i was driving my girlfriend’s

car. It was slick out with snow on the road when i slid into the car in front of me waiting to use a round-a-bout. The cops arrived, did their report and an ambulance was called to check everyone out. Everyone was fine, our car was towed due to a flat tire and the other party’s car was fine to drive. My girlfriend had full coverage and i was covered to drive the vehicle. The insurance fixed her car and a claim was filed by the other party as well. Fast forward 2 years and I received a summons to appear in court. Apparently the other party is suing me in civil court for an unspecified amount and they want a trial by jury. I have no assets, no income, and no money to my name. Should I obtain an attorney or speak to the plaintiff’s attorney myself?

Asked on March 1, 2016 under Accident Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Ideally, you should have an attorney: an attorney will greatly increase your odds of a successful outcome, whether that is escaping liability altogether (i.e. showing that you were not at fault; people are only liable if they were out fault in causing an accident, such as by driving too fast for conditions) or minimizing what you would have to pay, such as by undercutting the plaintiff's (the person suing you) claims for costs, injuries, etc.
It's important because if you are found liable, you would have to pay all costs, losses, and injuries the plaintiff can prove (to the extent he has not already been paid by insurance--he can't double collect), such as medical costs, lost wages or reduced earning potential if he missed work or can't work as much, "pain and suffering" is there is any long term disability or life impairment, etc. It could be alot of money.
Of course, if you can't afford an attorney, you can't afford an attorney. Bear in mind, though, that a court judgment against you will last for many years to come--it can be enforced against you (e.g. by a lien on property; by wage garnishment; etc.) in the future, so even if you have nothing now, if you later have an income or assets, if you lose this case, you could end paying in the future. Therefore, if there is any way to get an attorney, you should.


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