Despite the fact that I only represent people who have been injured against insurance companies and corporations, I still occasionally get calls from people who have just been served with a summons due to an injury they caused. Usually these people come to me because they hurt a bicyclist or pedestrian and found me through my work in those areas or they don’t understand that a personal injury attorney in Oregon typically only represents people against insurance companies.
After confirming that it's not my client suing them, I usually give them this advice:
The fact that you were sued does not mean you are going to have to go to trial or that you will be driven into bankruptcy.
While you may be surprised to learn the claim was still open, it is most likely that the plaintiff (the hurt person) and their attorney have been trying to resolve the matter with your insurance company for some time, but that an agreement cannot be reached or the statute of limitations is getting close. A lawsuit has been initiated because your insurance company has not offered enough money to settle the case or has refused to pay to settle the case. As a result, the plaintiff has turned to the court system to resolve the matter.
Even though the case has been filed in court, it will most likely not result in a trial. Most cases resolve after depositions are taken. Depositions are when both sides get to ask the other side questions under oath.
After depositions cases are usually resolved with negotiation between the attorneys, through mediation, court mandated arbitration, or through a judicial settlement conference, with only a small percentage of lawsuits actually going to trial.
If you've been sued as a result of a collision, stay calm and contact your insurance provider. Under the terms of your insurance contract, your insurance company will hire and pay for an attorney to defend you in the case.
Charley Gee is a personal injury attorney in Portland, Oregon. He exclusively represents injured people against insurance companies and corporations.