The reasons a person might get sued are as varied as human behavior itself.
“While civil lawsuit filings are down 10 percent in Texas over the last 10 years, many Texans still find themselves being served a summons and have no clue what to do next,” said Houston-based trial lawyer Steve Mostyn, founder of Mostyn Law.
Car accidents are a common reason that ordinary people might find themselves entangled in a lawsuit—particularly one that involves an insurance company.
Texas is what’s known as a fault state, meaning that the person who is responsible for the accident (or his or her insurance company) has to compensate the person who was not found to be responsible. Texas law requires every licensed driver to have insurance that covers at least $30,000 in payments for each person injured, up to a total of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident.
But what happens if the accident caused damage or injuries that cost more than the at-fault driver’s insurance will cover? In many cases, the driver who was not at fault will sue for the difference. So what do you do if you get a summons in the mail? Here are a few first steps.
When you get a summons in the mail, it can be tempting to toss it to the side and try to pretend it isn’t happening. But if you don’t respond to the lawsuit in some way, or if you don’t respond quickly enough, you could lose important rights that could affect the outcome of your case.
If you had insurance at the time of the company, contact your insurance company and let them know. They may handle the case for you. If you did not have insurance or your company will not handle your case, start looking for someone to represent you in court right away. Lawsuits that involve insurance companies can be complex and rely on laws with which you probably are not familiar. A qualified personal injury lawyer with a track record of success will serve you best.
Hopefully, you notified your insurance company and the police after the accident. Now’s a good time to get a hold of the police report and any documents your insurance company provided, which will make it easier for your attorney to get a handle on your case. If you were had the presence of mind to document the scene and the condition of the cars involved in the accident with photographs, gather those together, too.
Take some time to write down everything you remember about the accident—how did it happen? What were you doing when the accident occurred, and why? Is there anything you can think of that the other driver did wrong? What was the weather like, and could it have played a role in the accident?
Finally, try to remember the condition you and other drivers were in after the accident. Document your own injuries, as well as anything you can recall about injuries the other drivers sustained and how they seemed to you after the accident.