Can I Be Sued Two Years After a Car Crash?
I just got sued. I was in a car crash that was my fault two years ago. Why am I getting sued now and what can I do about it?
If you had automobile liability insurance at the time of the crash, you should have reported it immediately as a claim. That way, the insurer has notice of the crash and possible claim and also cannot claim you did not comply with your policy, which requires you to report all claims promptly.
If so, your auto carrier will not only cover any losses and damages up to your insurance limits, it will assign counsel, file an appearance, and provide lawyers all the way through trial at no charge to you. This is why you pay insurance premiums!
Get the complaint over to your auto insurer immediately and follow up daily to be sure they have filed an appearance for you!
The people in the car didn’t appear injured at the time. Can they sue anyway?
Yes. Not all injuries are apparent initially, and some very serious injuries are not visible or obvious and can manifest themselves much later. Keep in mind, however, that the plaintiff claiming injuries has the burden of proof and must prove that their injures are more probably true than not causally connected to the crash.
This is another reason to always file a police report immediately, report the potential claim to your insurer, and not have any conversations with the other vehicle occupants.
What if they are just claiming property damage?
They have up to five (5) years to sue you for property damage.
Further, if it is solely property damage and the other vehicle was not insured, you reporting it to your carrier would allow them to be paid by your carrier, thus making a lawsuit moot.
If you want to avoid getting sued later, always tell your insurance company about a claim or potential claim right away.
But the damages they are suing me for are “in excess of $50,000.00” and my policy limits are only $25,000.00. Can I lose my house?
Very unlikely. Here’s why.
In Illinois, the minimum amount of insurance you are required to carry for liability is $25,000 per person per incident and $50,000 per incident. If you cause minor damages to a person driving the other vehicle, even if you only had the state minimum in coverage, that would likely cover their damages.
However, let’s say you hit a motorcyclist and they suffer serious fractures requiring surgery and have bills exceeding $100,000. What then? Well, your $25,000 policy would be tendered almost immediately if it was shown you were mostly at fault. Then, if the other driver or owner had insurance limits of greater than yours, let’s say $250,000 per person per incident and $500,000 per incident, they could seek up to an additional $225,000 ($250,000 less $25,000) from their carrier for injuries and compensation.
If the other vehicle had no insurance, while they could sue you personally, most people are more or less judgment-proof from losing assets. You are allowed a certain amount of personal property, interest in a home, and vehicle, before you lose it to a judgment creditor. However, in my opinion, carrying the state minimum in insurance liability is akin to driving without a seatbelt, bald tires, and faulty brakes; you are simply asking for a tragedy to occur.
My rule of thumb is to never buy insurance coverage of less than $250,000/$500,000. If you own property and/or have children, I always suggest a policy of minimum $500,000 plus a personal liablity umbrella policy of $1,000,000.
But I am Also Injured. Can I bring a Claim for Personal Injuries Too?
If you were injured, your first move would be to file a police report, report it to your carrier and the other carrier, then to seek medical treatment. After that, contact a lawyer. My car is totaled. Will the Insurance Buy Me a New One?
If you think you might be hurt, get checked out immediately, do not talk to anyone, make a police report, and contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could leave lots of money on the table and yourself with no recourse.
What if my insurance had lapsed?
Well, you are in a very difficult position.
Here are some options.First of all, double check with your carrier by filing a claim and getting the suit papers over to them ASAP and following up daily. Get an answer on whether you had coverage or not.
First of all, double check with your carrier by filing a claim and getting the suit papers over to them ASAP and following up daily. Get an answer on whether you had coverage or not.
Second, if it turns out you were not insured, check any other possible people in your household who might have been covered and report it to their carrier.
Third, if that is a no go, find out from the other person if they are claiming property damage only or personal injuries too. If property damage only, you can ask for 2 estimates, agree to pay the lower or the average and then make them sign a release for all other claims including injury. You can also do this on a payment plan in most cases and report it to the Secretary of State so you keep your driving privileges.
If it turns out they are claiming they were hurt, you have to either hire a lawyer to file an appearance and defend the case based on lack of responsibility or lack of damages that can be proven or you must consider bankruptcy. Just realize hiring a lawyer will be by the hour and will be costly. Yet another great reason to keep paying those insurance premiums!
- What to do if you get sued for an auto crash.
- Personal injury versus property damage suits.
- What to do if you think you were not covered.
- What to do if you were also injured.
- Why having the maximum limits is always a good idea.
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited.
Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.