Being sued by someone else is never a pleasant experience and it is one that should always prompt you to have appropriate legal representation. No matter how safe we try to be – whether that be on the road or in our own home – we cannot always shield ourselves or the ones we love most from an accident.
If you or a loved one are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, either initiated by you for a third-parties’ reckless action, or by a third-party for an accident that you’ve caused, you may be wondering how personal assets will tie into the lawsuit.
This can be especially true if you are the one being sued. You may fear that you are at risk of losing everything from your car to your retirement funds, and with good reason. No matter how prepared you are, having to pay for an accident can change your life in a matter of seconds. Which is why it would be in your best interests to meet with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to discuss the assets you have and how to best protect them.
On the other hand, if you are the one pursuing compensation for injuries sustained in an accident, or if you are looking to replace lost wages and to cover medical bills as a result of your incident, then there are likely many places that your attorney can help you to collect from the individual that caused your pain and suffering.
In either case, here are a few things to keep in mind about assets in a personal injury case:
- Paying for or collecting on damages:
- If you are the defendant, depending on the specifics of your case, either your insurance company will pay for the damages you are found guilty of, or you will have to pay out of pocket. If you cannot afford to pay out of pocket, then your assets may then be in jeopardy. The plaintiff will have the right to collect from you by whatever means necessary, including your savings, your home, or your car.
- If you are the plaintiff, you are eligible to take action to uncover the compensation you were awarded by the judge, jury or settlement offer either from the defendant’s insurance, the defendant’s ability to provide payment, or from the defendant’s assets until your payment is satisfied. You must keep in mind, though, that the amount you might receive in damages award could be affected by your fault in the incident. An injured plaintiff can recover compensation only if they are found to be 50 percent or less at fault for their accident or injury.
- Attorney fees:
- If you are the defendant, and you need to hire an attorney to protect you from allegations of the harm you may have caused, then you might be looking at some hefty fees. Many attorneys will offer an initial consultation for free. At that meeting, the attorney will typically estimate how much your fee will be based on factors such as the percentage of fault which lies with you for the incident, whether you have a defense or a counterclaim to the lawsuit, and whether the plaintiff is likely to settle the case without a trial. Most attorneys will charge for their services in one of three ways: either by a flat fee, by the hour, or by the result. How you pay for your attorney, and whether or not you must rely on some of your assets in order to secure their defense is entirely up to you.
- If you are the plaintiff, then personal injury lawyers are typically only paid if they are able to secure a settlement for you. So if you are worried about losing assets due to the case itself, there is no need to fear. Any fees that your attorney charges you for taking on your case are usually paid out at the end of the case, and only if the attorney is able to successfully collect on your behalf. Typical fees are up to one-third of your settlement.
- The Appeals Process:
- If you are the defendant, this might be one of the only ways that you may be able to protect your assets if you are found at fault for the other person’s injuries. Winning an appeal means that something went awry with your case, and you are able to prove it. If you are granted an appeal, you may not only have the ability to protect your assets, but you may pursue taxable costs from the plaintiff as well. However, if everything about the case went according to plan, and there was no legal error made, then trying to appeal the case may not work in your favor.
- If you are the plaintiff, and in the event that you lost or simply are not satisfied with the decision or judgment in your personal injury case, then you have the right to file an appeal as well. The bad news is that if you lost your case initially, while you may not owe your attorney anything, the defendant is entitled to an award against you for its taxable costs. There will be a judgment entered against you for the defendant’s costs, and the defendant can use any means available to recover this money from you. At this point in time, your assets may be in jeopardy if you cannot pay for these fees.
Given these complicated issues, make sure you contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to help you with this process, so you are clear about your rights and responsibilities over the duration.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.