A car accident could add unwanted stress in your life, especially if you are the one accused of causing the collision. When someone sues you, that means they are accusing you of being negligent in a way that caused the car accident. However, if you believe you should not be held liable for the accident, you are not defenseless. With the help of a trusted car accident lawyer, you have options to respond, including the ability to file a counterclaim.
There are a few reasons why using a counterclaim is the best choice for the defendant when the plaintiff files a lawsuit:
- Used to determine fault. When no one is blamed for an accident, the police will detail a description of what happened in the accident and neither driver is arrested. Many states have no-fault car accident laws, which means of regardless of who caused the accident, both drivers would go to their own insurance policy for coverage, not the person who is liable. A counterclaim is different; a counterclaim depends on the police’s investigation to determine who is at fault.
- Investigation has not been completed. A counterclaim is also used when an investigation of the accident has not been completed, but the other driver is suing you for liability anyway. In this scenario, the plaintiff is trying to collect damages even before the police determines who is at fault.
- Insurance will not cover damages. Filing a counterclaim is also a good idea when you have been in an accident that was caused by the other driver, and their insurance company is refusing to pay for any repairs or medical bills.
- The other driver knows they are liable. There are some drivers who will file a lawsuit against the other driver knowing full-well that they themselves are liable for the accident. Should this happen, it is best to file a counterclaim to prove that you were not at fault, and the court will ultimately decide if that is the case.
The Counterclaim Process
The counterclaim process begins when a plaintiff, in this case the other driver in the accident, files a claim against you, the defendant. However, you file a counterclaim, in which you sue the plaintiff. It is important to understand that the counterclaim is part of the original lawsuit against you, and the claim revolves around the car accident for which the plaintiff sues the defendant.
When the plaintiff serves the defendant a complaint and summons, the defendant then has a time limit to file a counterclaim, which is generally four weeks. If the defendant wishes to do so, they will file an Answer to the Plaintiff’s Complaint and then file the counterclaim. This is mostly done through your insurance company; they will decide if you should file the counterclaim, and they will file on your behalf.
Both parties then attempt to prove that the other was at fault for the accident, which is otherwise known as the pre-investigation process or the discovery. After the pre-investigation process is mediation, in which a settlement will be offered. If these settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, a trial would begin. During most trials, the jury decides if the defendant was negligent and then determines what amount to be awarded to the plaintiff. When a counterclaim is involved, the jury must determine which party of the two was negligent and what the amount of damages they owe.
Many states have a comparative negligence law that may prevent you from recovering any damages at all. With comparative negligence, if the jury finds a party to be more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, they are not able to recover any damages. Even if you are found to be under 50 percent responsible, the degree you are found to be responsible may reduce the amount you receive as well. For example, if you are found to be 25 percent at fault for the accident, you would only receive the remaining 75 percent of the compensation.
Washington DC uses the contributory negligence rule, which means that a party must be completely without fault for an accident to make a recovery in damages.
Deciding Whether to File an Accident Lawsuit
Filing a lawsuit could be a stressful experience. However, most accident lawsuits are settled by the insurance companies before a lawsuit is even filed. Even if it does not settle before filing the lawsuit, there is a strong possibility the situation will be settled before a trial begins.
Settling a claim before filing a lawsuit may be beneficial to you. You do not have to pay high legal fees, and the time it takes to pursue a trial may not even be worth the trouble. However, if there is any dispute at all of whom is responsible for the accident, or the personal injuries have been severe, going to court may be the best option to take.
If you live in a no-fault insurance state, your own insurance will cover your damages, regardless of who is at fault for the accident. However, there are some specific situations that must meet a certain criterion if you need to sue an at-fault party for an accident.
Many states and Washington DC follow at-fault laws, which mandate that the insurance company of the person who is at fault for an accident is responsible for paying for damages. In this scenario, however, the at-fault party’s insurance company may offer a modest settlement at first, or their offer does not cover all the property and medical damages. This is when it is beneficial to file a lawsuit. Furthermore, if the car accident involved the death of a loved one, a lawsuit would be your best option.
Before accepting any settlement offer or filing a lawsuit, the absolute best decision to make is seeking the counsel of a reputable car accident lawyer. With the help of a lawyer, you may be able to recover damages from the accident, such as:
- Property damages
- Medical bills
- Permanent disability
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Lost wages or loss of earning potential
- Punitive damages
Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Clients File a Claim or Lawsuit
If you have been involved in an accident, you may need to seek further reimbursement from the at-fault party. In addition, if a driver filed a lawsuit against you, you have options to file a counterclaim. Reach out to the Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. Our experienced legal team will be your advocate to protect your rights. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.