I rear ended a vehicle that was stopped in a sudden traffic backup. There was virtually no damage to either car. However, he filed a claim and was paid $500 by my insurance company. He had tried to contact me by telephone, but I didn’t return his calls, thinking he was trying to shake me down.
In his calls he left a message claiming to not want to take me to court. Also, the insurance company told me that he should not be contacting me. Before they’d even denied his claim of injury (they probably will today), he filed a suit in small claims court against me.
My first question is: How rare is it for someone, after a rear end bump, to have to see a chiropractor and miss a week of work due to an accident where there was virtually no damage? Also, why is he not going after the insurance company for this? My understanding is that my insurance company can not speak at the trial, but only act in an advisory capacity; is this true?
If we go to trial and lose, will my insurance company pay, or will I? Prior to the trial, am I forbidden by law to meet, speak with, take photos of the plaintiff? I also have real doubts that he was actually injured. How can I be sure that if I settle he will cancel the court date and not seek further damages?
Thank you very much in advance for any help you can give.
Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.
From the facts you present it appears the accident was of a very minor nature and one in which police presence was completely unnecessary. If there was no damage to either vehicle that is a good, but not complete, evidence there were no injuries.
If the collision was over 10 mph there does exist the possibility the driver may have sustained some form of “Whiplash” injury. If the driver truly suffered a whiplash injury it would not be uncommon for him to miss a week of work and see a Chiropractor at the same time. From what you have told us the whiplash injury sounds like a bit of a stretch, but there does remain the possibility of it being real.
Next… It seems like the $500 your insurance company paid was for damages to his vehicle. Whether there was actual damage or not, sometimes insurance companies pay these small amounts just to be rid of a “nuisance” case. Their paying that amount is not an admission of fault of their uninsured.
In collision claims such as this the “injured” driver cannot sue the insurance company. Instead you will be sued. Once you notify your insurance company they take over and provide lawyers to represent you at no charge. You indirectly pay for the lawyers each month when you make your car payment.
If the case ever gets to trial – and that is very unlikely, the insurance company’s presence in the courtroom will only be through their attorneys. They will prepare you for trial just like any lawyer would prepare her client for trial. If you do go to trial and lose, your insurance company will pay for everything. You will pay nothing.
The law in Califonia provides a pre-trial right to “discover” just about any evidence they believe will help your case and destroy his. Your attorneys will be able to take his deposition under oath. They will be able to take photographs of his car, and your attorneys will be able to scrutinize the Chiropractor’s bills and the “therapy” he provided.
If your insurance company settles the case they will first provide to the driver a Release of Claim and a Dismissal Motion. This is before he will receive any check from your insurance company.
If the driver were to ignore that Release and sue you again after cashing the insurance company’s check, you can be sure when your insurance company’s attorneys find out they will immediately file a Motion for Sanctions against the driver. The Motion for Sanctions tells the Judge as follows:
“Judge, this man had already been paid for this case and swore in writing he would never file suit again. He violated that promise and because he did we are asking you Judge to make him pay a large fine and additional court costs, including our attorney’s fees, for what he has done.”
In most cases the Judge will grant that Motion. Judges don’t like it when people do things like that. Judges consider such action to be an abuse of the legal system.
Learn more here: Minor Collisions / Fender Benders
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.
Best of luck with your claim,
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