I was at fault in a car accident. The car was in my fathers name, and the people in the car I rear ended are claiming injuries. (insurance said it may go to trial)If it goes to trial, what will happen? Will my father have to pay money??
3 Answers from Attorneys
There are law firms that devote entire practices to automobile negligence.
My Firm is not one of them, my litigation and transactional practice is much broader, but I can help you:
--If insurance covers everything you will owe nothing. And remember that the whole purpose of insurance is to make pay outs if proper without then turning around to collect from you or your father as insureds.
--The insurance company will provide you and your father with an attorney, pretty much free of charge. If you are unhappy with the selection you can ask the insurance company to appoint someone else.
-- It never hurts to call your agent to determine if there will be any increase in premium due to the accident. If so you may wish to compare that cost to the amount of damages claimed.
--If there is insurance but it is insufficient to cover a settlement or judgment you may have to pay a balance- In that event your attorney will want to negotiate a reduction in the judgment and periodic partial payments. Most of the time Plaintiff's attorneys will settle for an amount less that the "policy limits".
--The Plaintiff's attorneys might err during trial resulting in a judgment in your favor (it happens all the time)
--Unfortunately, trials can be expensive because you will have to hire a "high cost" expert on the negligence issues and another on "medical" issues. An attorney may want to hire an expert early in the proceedings (to assist, for example, at mediation [supervised negotiations]). Or the attorney may want to hire an expert closer to trial (hoping, perhaps, for a settlement before experts are necessary).
- Because of damage to your father's car there will be a CarFax on file letting prospective purchasers know that the car was in an accident- Sorry!!
--Not every rear-ender is the fault of the car in front.
--Insurance companies have a second and keen sense for trumped up damages by a Plaintiff.
--As the owner of the car (considered a "dangerous instrumentality") your father, subject to insurance coverage, could be responsible.
--This scenario may involve Florida's No-Fault laws.
--The situation could perhaps be more complex if you and your father had separate insurance policies
This is not a legal opinion, simply observations. To obtain a legal opinion you must formally engage Florida counsel and confer.
Seek some legal guidance. Yes your father may be responsible for excess damages beyond insurance coverage. You need to make sure that the insurance company has been put on notice of your desire to have the case settled within the policy limits.
Both you and your father may be liable for an excess judgment. You should retain a private attorney to protect your interests. I do this work all the time.