Being in a car accident is a traumatic experience, but things can get even worse if you are sued by the other driver. When you must defend yourself in an auto accident lawsuit, you risk having to pay significant damages if the verdict goes against you in court. This article examines some key aspects of car accident law that defendants in such cases need to know.
Scene of the Accident
One of the key moments in any auto accident case takes place long before a lawsuit is filed. The behavior of those involved in the accident at the scene of the crash plays an important role in what occurs later. The main point to keep in mind is to never make any incriminating statements in the aftermath of an accident. Even if you think that you were at fault, or partially at fault, do not apologize to the other driver or indicate in any way that you are responsible for the accident. Also, make sure you note and write down any incriminating statements made by the other driver.
Every state gives people a certain amount of time after an accident to file personal injury lawsuits. If the other party files their suit even one day late, this can result in the entire case against you being dismissed. Of course, if the plaintiff obtains a competent attorney early in the process the possibility of having a suit dismissed for being filed late is unlikely. Still, it's good idea to check your state's laws concerning the time limit for filing civil suits just in case.
These types of suits revolve around who is to blame, or at fault ,for the accident. The plaintiff must show that negligence on your part is the main reason the crash occurred. Naturally you and your attorney will be attempting to show that you were not at fault.
In some states, you will be able to reduce the amount of damages you must pay if the verdict goes against you. The justification for this reduction is a legal concept called comparative negligence. Under this rule, for example, if you can show that the defendant is 40 percent responsible for what happened, then your liability will be mitigated.
Another common defense used in auto accident cases is called the "empty chair" defense. The strategy involves shifting all or some of the blame for the accident to a party who is not present at the proceedings. For instance, if the plaintiff has already settled out of court with another party, that person or persons will not be involved in the court case and would be the so-called empty chair. Your attorney can then try to limit your liability by assigning fault to this third party.
For more insight into auto accident law from a defendant's perspective, contact a professional auto accident attorney.