How to Protect Yourself From Being Sued for an Auto Accidentby Kenneth W. Michael Wills
Personal injury claims and other types of lawsuits are common where car accidents are concerned. As a motorist it is important to make sure you have yourself covered in the event of an automotive accident to protect yourself from such potential lawsuits. Insurance coverage, the way you drive and how you react at the scene of an accident can all make a big difference. There are a few steps you can take to mitigate the chance of a costly lawsuit, while protecting yourself and your loved ones on the highway.
Get the Right Insurance
Research the liability coverages required in your state. It is your responsibility to have the minimum amount of insurance coverage required by state laws where you drive. These minimums, however, in some states are not enough to offset costly lawsuits. You will need to check the minimum liability coverage in your state to determine if it equals enough to cover a costly lawsuit.
Review policies carefully and make sure you know exactly what your policy covers and what drivers it covers. If only you are covered as a driver and your spouse gets into an accident while driving your vehicle, the insurance won't pay out. This means you can find yourself as a defendant in a costly lawsuit.
Check for and make sure there is a clause that states if a payment is made on your behalf, the claimant waives the right to sue you personally for an accident. This helps protect you in the event you are found at fault in a lawsuit.
Obey all traffic rules on the highway. Breaking traffic rules, such as speeding, is a major culprit that contributes to accidents on highways. Obeying traffic laws reduces your risk of an accident and subsequent lawsuits.
Refrain from driving aggressively and letting your emotions get the best of you while behind the wheel. It only takes a moment to cause a car accident, such as getting mad at someone who just cut you off, stepping on the gas and running through a red light, causing an accident.
Slow down when driving in bad weather. In situations where visibility is low, your reaction time is less and if you don't slow down, you certainly increase your chances for a car accident. When road conditions are hazardous, you need extra time to apply your brakes in a measured fashion.
At the Scene of an Accident
Watch what you say at the scene of an accident. If you find yourself in a car accident, what you say at the scene if vitally important. Under no circumstances should you take responsibility for the accident, nor should you say anything to implicate yourself, including in any statements given to the police. In the event the other driver at the scene admits wrongdoing, however, you should record his statements or give those statements to the police to include in the accident report.
Gather the right information. When involved in an accident, you should record all information possible at the scene. You will need to record the make and model of all vehicles involved, get the names of all drivers and the drivers' insurance carriers and policy numbers. You will also need to record as much detail as possible about the accident scene, including weather conditions, road conditions, damage to vehicles and other property, statements from any witnesses, ambulance information, police information and towing company information. If possible, you should take pictures from a variety of angles of the accident scene.
Report the accident to the Department of Motor Vehicles as soon as possible, following an accident. Not only is this required by law, but not doing so may result in the attorneys for a claimant seizing on such non-action as a demonstration of fault on your part.
- check If you do find yourself on the defending end of a lawsuit, make sure you have all witness statements and any evidence you gathered at the scene available. These documents should demonstrate that you were not the party at fault.
- link Ohio Department of Insurance: Guide to Automobile Insurance
- link CarAccidentAttorneys.com: How to Protect Yourself After a Car Accident in California
- link California Courts: Options When You are Sued
- link State of Michigan: Brief Explanation of Michigan No-Fault Insurance
- link BYU Idaho: Risk Management
- photo_camera David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images