I Received a Car Accident Court Summons, Now What?
A few days ago, you accidentally bumped into a car in front of you. The driver of that car seemed fine, so you thought you could get out of it. But today, you received a car accident court summons. Before you start freaking out, note that receiving a court summons does not automatically means you are being sued. Read on to learn about different types of car accident court summons and the steps to take after receiving the summons.
What Is a Summons?
- To defend yourself against a civil lawsuit within a specified time;
- To answer a minor criminal charge;
- A notification to appear for jury service; or
- A notification to appear as a witness.
A summons usually contains the name of a court, the name of the parties, and a docket number for the case. If you're receiving a summons as a defendant, you will receive a complaint along with the summons in person or by mail.
What Should I Do Now?
In a car accident case, you would be most likely receiving the court summons as a defendant or as a witness to the car accident at issue. If you're receiving it as a witness, you are being asked to testify regarding the accident. You shouldn't worry about having an attorney to represent you because you're not being charged with anything or facing any liability. However, if your testimony could contain incriminating statements, you may need to talk to a lawyer to make sure your statements will not be used against you. Also, even if you weren't at the scene of the accident or believe that you have nothing to do with the case, you still need to respond to the summons.
If you're receiving the summons as a defendant to a civil lawsuit or a minor criminal charge, you will need to file an answer to the complaint. Before filing anything, contact your insurance company if the lawsuit is about personal injury or property damage. Send your insurance company a copy of the summons you received. Most insurance companies have a contractual duty to hire a lawyer to represent you and indemnify you up to your coverage limit.
If you don't have car insurance coverage, you'll have to either hire an attorney or represent yourself pro se. You may represent yourself without an attorney if the case is straightforward and you're not worried about making choices on your own. However, keep in mind that representing yourself involves many risks that can negatively affect your case. You'll want to make sure you follow the specific court procedures and understand the applicable laws in order to win your case. As a result, it's highly advisable to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
What Happens Next?
You (or your attorney) will need to prepare to file an answer, which is a document that contains your response to the complaint of the case. In your answer, you should address each paragraph of the complaint either admitting, denying, or stating it's insufficient to admit or deny.
The summons should state how many days you have to respond to the complaint. Even if you think you aren't responsible for the accident, you must respond within that timeframe. If you fail to do so, you are in default, which will lead to a judgment against you for failure to appear, failure to file a pleading, or failure to take required procedural steps. If that occurs, you won't be able to contest any issues, and the court will proceed to determine the amount of damages you'll need to pay.
Get a Free Claim Evaluation
If you've received a car accident court summons, you should contact an attorney immediately to find out what your legal options are. If you fail to follow the appropriate court procedures, you may be penalized for it. So before filing anything, contact an attorney in your area today for a free case review.