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Mom being sued after car wreck?
Old 02-23-2003, 05:27 PM   #1
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Mom being sued after car wreck?

Legal disclaimer: I did not witness the accident or subsequent events and my statements here are solicitations for general nonexpert advice. My statements here do not necessarily reflect the actual circumstances and do not consitute testimony or affidavidt of the events.

My mother had a car wreck earlier this year in Texas where she is a resident. The insurance company paid her claim through collision insurance, which I might interpret to mean they determined it's her fault. She recently got notification from her insurance that the other party has retained a lawyer. It is my understanding that both cars were totaled and that none of the people involved went to the hospital immediately after or claimed injury at the scene.

My mother's only major assets are a retirement account (401(k) or 403(b) or something similar) and partial equity in her home residence, and she has considerable debt including negative equity from her recently totaled car. She's still employed and nowhere near the ability to retire. I think her liability coverage was Texas minimum, which if I recall correctly is $25,000 property damage and $50,000 personal injury per person up to $100,000. (I may be way off on the personal injury; it may be half that.)

We're panicking a little bit because we don't know what's next. I suppose the insurance company will have a lawyer to deal with this because they're on the hook for the first $X,000, but does my mom need to get a lawyer now, or when she's sued, or never? Is there a organization or web site that gives general advice for people who get sued, especially over car wrecks? Can she lose her retirement account or home if it came to that?

Lawyers are expensive, and I don't know where the break-even point between paying a lawyer and losing all your assets is; I mean, what does it matter if the lawyer gets it or the suing party gets it? It's still gone.

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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?
Old 02-24-2003, 03:16 AM   #2
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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?

Never ever hire a lawyer except as a a last resort.
In this case you have plenty of time no matter what happens so don't panic. Also remember the best advice
I ever got from the best lawyer I ever had. If you can avoid
being a plaintiff or a defendent, you will almost always
be better off because even the "winner" frequently
loses by the time the dust settles. Sometimes you gotta
use 'em, but lawyers are best avoided like the plague.
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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?
Old 02-24-2003, 04:50 PM   #3
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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?

Sorry to hear that.

I know its too late for her now, but an "Umbrella" Policy is a good idea. For a reasonable rate, you can be protected against a large $$ judgement. Will require that you keep a certain minimum liabilty on car insurance, but its also reasonable. Covers your car use, your house and environs, some other things too. That way, your Insurance Co's sharks (did I say that? :) will be on the case, as they are protecting THEIR big ASSetts first!
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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?
Old 02-25-2003, 06:19 AM   #4
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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?

If a suit actually is filed, I would want to discuss strategy with a responsible official of the insurance company. They would probably first try to settle out of court for an amount that would not exceed their liability.

If the case went to court, I would want to discuss the case with the specific lawyer that the insurance company proposed to provide, and if that person seemed unsuitable I would demand someone else. Two things in your favor are (1) the insurance company shares your interest in minimizing the amount of an award and (2) unless your mother chews tobacco in court, a jury is not likely to assess punitive damages against an elderly woman.
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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?
Old 03-18-2003, 07:14 PM   #5
 
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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?

Based on your mother's assets, they other party will probably settle on what the insurance company will offer.

Its my understanding that in the Great State of Texas, retirement accounts are exempt from suit. Assuming your mother has filed for Homestead Exemption on her home, it too will be exempt from suit.

It may be best to hire an attorney to advise the plaintiff's counsel of your mother's financial conditions. She will still be a party to the suit, but she is not the "deep pockets" the opposing counsel is looking for.

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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?
Old 03-21-2003, 07:14 PM   #6
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Re: Mom being sued after car wreck?

Thanks everyone for the replies. She called the insurance person handling the case (I'm not sure if this was a lawyer, adjuster or what) but didn't get much info. Apparently they haven't asked for anything yet. We're both a bit more calm now and otherwise distracted by vacations, wars and other car wrecks. We'll just wait and see what happens next.

Bad luck is raining down on her, though. My younger brother wrecked her other car while she was in it. No one was injured. My brother was driving but it will be another claim on her collision insurance and in a suit I suppose she'd be a party to that, too.

Mom is rapidly running out of cars, and we're all paranoid drivers now.
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