Getting sued for $350,000 after minor fender bender in a parking lot?
I was backing out from parking spot at Walmart when the corner of my bumper made contact with another car passing behind me. It scraped from the front door down the side to the passenger door. The other party and I examined the damage and she then pulled into the parking spot next to me.
We exchanged insurance info and called the police, but one wasn't available to make a report. We then drove to the city hall police station and we both made a written report. As we left, she stated, "wish I'd got that empty spot next to you, but I saw one closer and decided to get it."
I received a letter from her attorney a few weeks later which I turned into my insurance company. Now over month later, I just got a summons. She is suing for $300,000 and her husband for $50,000 for loss of companionship.
The summons said her car was totaled, and that she received neck, back, and jaw injuries. I claimed no damage on my end, a dent on the bumper about the size of a tennis ball.
My questions: How much will my insurance attorney represent me for? Do I have to pay out of pocket for an attorney beyond my insurance policy limits? Will I lose all my assets if it goes to a judge? It seems like they are trying to "take" me, since this was such a minor accident? How can they do this? What can I do to defend this? Thanks.
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ANSWER for "Getting sued for $350,000 after minor fender bender in a parking lot?":
Marty (Bruceton, TN):
There is something wrong with this picture. The facts just don't "jive" with the amount of property damage and injury compensation the woman is demanding. It's difficult to believe any attorney would accept a personal injury claim when the collision occurred in a parking lot, when the cars were moving at only a few miles an hour and there were no apparent injuries.
Additionally, according to you, if there was as serious an injury as the other driver maintains, paramedics should have been summoned, or at a minimum, a police officer would have been dispatched as soon as you or the other driver called and reported a serious injury accident.
For the sake of argument, let's presume the other driver's injuries were latent, appearing sometime after the collision. Tennessee' minimum auto insurance requirements are 25/50/15. This equates to:
- $25,000 for injuries in one accident to one person
- $50,000 for injuries in one accident for two or more persons
- $15,000 for property damage
In the unlikely event the other driver succeeds in her claim against you, you would be personally liable for the difference between $25,000 and $350,000, or $325,000. That is an unlikely scenario.
The insurance company is bound to provide a defense attorney at no cost to you. The attorney will vigorously defend you, and by doing so, defend the insurance company as well. Speak with the insurance company. Be sure to immediately turn the demand letter over to them. You have a contractual obligation to do so promptly.
The insurance company will turn the letter over to their attorney. Soon thereafter you will be contacted. At that point the attorney will likely be able to advise you about the seriousness of the claim, and the likelihood of the other driver's success.
Once again, from the facts you present, the claim appears to be at best, frivolous. Your insurance company might pay the other driver a small amount for nuisance value, but not much more.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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