If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, or if you’ve been a witness to a wreck, there’s a good chance that you may receive a car accident court summons. For many people, receiving an order to appear in court can be a little scary, and many have questions about the process and what they will be required to do or say.
There are a few main reasons why people may be summoned to court after an accident, and often, a lawyer can help you navigate the process.
What Are My Responsibilities After an Accident?
Even if you don’t feel hurt after an accident, or if you don’t see any damage to your car, you should still always call the police and EMS. The police officer will file an official report of the incident, which can go a long way towards determining fault, and medical professionals are trained to diagnose “invisible injuries,” such as damage to the neck or spine, or soft tissue injuries that are common after a car wreck.
Never admit responsibility after the accident, even if you feel like you should apologize. Anything that happens after the collision may be documented and used later as part of a court case or settlement discussions.
Three Reasons You May Go to Court After an Accident
- Receiving a Court Summons
A court summons is a legal document that contains the details of the accident and a complaint that attributes fault to the defendant. Your car accident court summons will have the information you need to appear, including the name of the court and the building it’s in, the names of all parties involved, and the case docket number.
Typically, car accident cases end up in court because the parties involved (including their respective attorneys and insurance agencies) cannot come to an agreement on the settlement.
What happens when I receive a court summons?
If you’ve received a court summons, it’s likely because you have been named as a defendant in the case, or you’re requested to come in as a witness. Your summons will have this information on it. If you’re named as a defendant, you need legal representation, and by someone qualified to defend parties in an accident lawsuit. Plus, your defense attorney can help ensure that your insurance covers any damages, and helps remove personal liability from you.
Regardless of how you feel about going to court, you must respond and appear. Otherwise, you could face misdemeanor charges, including fines or being arrested.
2. Failure to reach a fair settlement
Before going to court, many attorneys and insurance companies prefer to work out a settlement, using documents provided by law enforcement and medical professionals, as well as witness statements. Often, the party at fault is easily identified, and negotiations can go fairly smoothly.
However, if both parties share responsibility for causing the accident, or if there are other factors into why the accident occurred, such as multiple cars being involved or inclement weather, for example, then the attorneys on each side may not be able to come to an agreement. In these cases, the plaintiff’s lawyer may recommend filing suit, and allowing a judge to hear the evidence and decide the matter.
3. Filing a car accident lawsuit
You may be summoned to appear in court to file the car accident lawsuit, or as the plaintiff (the party not at fault) when the case goes before a judge. Your lawyer will handle the process, but you will be required to be there. As a plaintiff, you file a complaint first, and then if the other party will not settle your case moves to trial.
Do I Need a Lawyer For a Car Accident Court Summons?
Many people may make the mistake of thinking that they don’t need legal representation if they haven’t done anything wrong. However, a personal injury lawyer can help you understand the paperwork involved and evidence you need, plus advocate for you in court. If you’ve received a summons, call an attorney right away!