Can I be sued over a car accident in which I plead ‘no contest’?

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Can I be sued over a car accident in which I plead ‘no contest’?

Back in 2017 I was involved in a car accident on my way home. I had to speak with a peace officer at my local court. After reviewing the case, he decided for the case to end up in ‘no contest’ and I had to pay a fine of 220. Now, two years later, the other party are suing me for injuries. What should I do?

Asked on May 2, 2019 under Accident Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you may be sued: the civil lawsuit system (a lawsuit from the other driver) is separate from the criminal or quasi-criminal (e.g. moving violations and other violations of traffic/motoring laws) system, and the outcome in your municipal court has no bearing on the other driver's right or ability to sue you. If you were at fault in causing the accident, you can be held liable for the damage, injuries, and costs it can be proven you caused.
A good rule of thumb: if the amount is less than the limit for small claims court, negotiate to pay it with the other side so long as you think there is any validity to their claims--maybe you can pay over time, or pay a reduced amount. Even if they insist on payment in full, if the amount is less than small claims, it's more generally cost effective to pay if you think that the claim may be valid, rather than spending money (e.g. on a lawyer) to fight it, then still possibly losing and having to pay anyway.
If the amount is larger than that, it is worth fighting--at least to try and reduce the amount (such as by showing that some injuries were pre-existing or not caused by you)--so you should retain an attorney.


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