Note: My office was recently contacted by a young college student who was served by a lawsuit for a car wreck she was in over a year ago. We were able to help by pointing her to her own insurance company. However, in searching the web, it was hard to find resources that provided this information – thus a blog was born!
First, let’s make sure we are on the same page.
Being sued = a lawsuit was filed in a court of law and you were mailed a copy of the lawsuit or hand-delivered a copy of the lawsuit. As compared to having a person file a claim on your own automobile insurance policy. This blog is going to provide some tips and pointers if you find yourself holding a copy of a lawsuit with your name on it in the state of Texas.
Ok so don’t panic – too much. Receiving a lawsuit with your name in it is not fun and can be downright scary but you aren’t stuck and you have options!
Plaintiff = person who filed the lawsuit and is requesting a legal remedy
Defendant = person being sued
Petition = fancy lawyer word for the lawsuit
Rules for Texas lawsuits that may help:
- A lawsuit can be filed up to two (2) years after the date of the crash.
- For Example: Crash is on 11/6/18 – the lawsuit can be filed until 11/6/20. NOT 11/7/20.
- Once you have received a copy of a lawsuit, you have twenty (20) days to file a response with the court. The response is labeled and/or titled an “Answer” in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
So if you are thinking, “It’s been over a year since that wreck, this can’t possibly be right?” Yes, it is. In Texas, you have two (2) years after the date of a wreck to file a lawsuit for claims related to personal injuries.
OR if you are thinking, “I have no time or money to hire a lawyer” You have some time (20 days), not a lot.
After you wipe the sweat from your brow ask:
Did I have automobile liability insurance at the time of the wreck?
Great, this will significantly stop the panic. Generally speaking, the terms of your automobile liability insurance contract will include a legal defense – meaning a lawyer will be hired to defend you in the event of a lawsuit from a car wreck. I say generally because every insurance contract can be different, even slightly.
Immediately call your insurance company – not your insurance agent – and tell them about the lawsuit. Your insurance company should explain the next steps and what they need from you.
This could cause some problems. Its best to look on the lawsuit, find the name of the lawyer who signed the lawsuit and call the lawyer’s office directly. Ask questions of the lawyer and try to gain clarity on the lawsuit:
What does the lawyer’s client want? How much money are they seeking? What is their intention with the lawsuit?
Once you have some clarity on the facts, you can decide how to proceed.
A. You can represent yourself – no requirement to have a lawyer.
B. You can hire a lawyer to represent you. For a type of lawsuit like this (car wreck), a lawyer typically charges by the hour. But remember, you have twenty (20) days to file a response as called an answer with the Court.
For questions about how to file documents with the Court, you would need to call the court clerk. The lawsuit documents will show you what county and court the lawsuit is filed in. There are different court clerks depending on what court the lawsuit is filed in. Many times, the court clerk has a website with helpful information for folks in your situation.
Do you live in Austin, Travis County, Texas?
For more information about Travis County Clerk’s Office, go to: www.traviscountytx.gov
For more information about Travis County District Clerk’s office, go to: www.traviscountytx.gov/district-clerk/
To learn more about the rules that govern civil lawsuits in Texas, go to: www.txcourts.gov/rules-forms/rules-standards/
Still confused? Call Larrick Law Firm PC (512) 893-5700 for further assistance. Just know this blog is for informational purposes, as the law practice of Elizabeth Larrick is a Plaintiff’s personal injury law. We do not provide legal defense work, but we know lots of folks that do and would be happy to connect you.