Thomas G. WitkopLaw Offices

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Even if it is only a minor matter you need to defend in a civil suit

Recently I had a young man come into my office. At the age of 17 he was in his father's car and he bumped the back of the plaintiff's car. There was virtually no property damage on his car and very slight property damage on the Honda minivan-approximately $900. The woman in the van got out and they exchanged information. She seemed fine. The only problem was that my client had no insurance on the vehicle-Dad forgot to pay.

2 1/2 years later my 17 year old is sued for $30,000. The woman had evidence of $20,000 in medical expenses which included one surgery on her knee and evidence that she had a ruptured disc in her neck. Apparently neither of these problems were evident prior to the accident.

I told my client that because he was served needed to defend himself. If he did nothing, it was a substantial likelihood that a judgment of $30,000 would be entered against him. That judgment would stand for at least 12 years. During those 12 years the insurance company could attempt to garnish his wages, seize his property, go after his bank accounts, etc. Further, his license would be suspended until he paid off that judgment. In Maryland, if you have an accident while you are driving an uninsured vehicle and a judgment is entered against you, the motor vehicle administration will suspend your license until you satisfied that judgment or work out an acceptable payment plan with the judgment creditor.

We went to court and reviewed the plaintiff's evidence. It was clear that my client accidentally rear-ended the plaintiff's vehicle. They had the complete medical records showing the above described problems. Strangely, the insurance company did not have their plaintiff immediately present. On the other hand, we were ready for trial. The plaintiff had the burden of collecting their evidence in a timely fashion to prove in court on the trial date. They were not ready. Had they gone forward that day they would've lost everything because they were not prepared. Now it is possible that the plaintiff could have continued to case to collect their evidence but that was not definite-the judge could have denied the request for postponement. Based on this uncertainty, based on the fact that the plaintiff was only 17 when the accident happened, we were able to settle this case at $1500 and some of that was going to come out of my legal fee because the case turned out to be significantly easier than I had anticipated.

By hiring an experienced attorney and preparing a defense, my client was able to reduce his exposure from $30,000 down to $1500 and he was able to protect his driver's license.
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