What to do if I'm being sued by an insurance company for collection after an auto accident?
Question Details: About 15 months ago, my son was coming home from the library at his school. He was T-boned and spun around and ultimately hit the back end of a 3rd car stationary at a light. This 3rd car had minor damage to the very rear of the car. My son did not have injury protection and only liability with his insurer. Both my son and the other car that hit him claimed the traffic light was green. The police could not determine who was at fault but because of the 3rd car having damage. Binding arbitration determined my son was at fault and his insurance company paid out to each party. One year later, the 3rd car's insurer is sueing my son for 14K claiming back injury to its client. Due to the HIPPA law, no details can be provided. I asked for what the damage was to the vehicle, as I believe it was minor and the back injury seems false (according to my son). I have all the details and think the arbitration decision is wrong. Can this be arbitration decision be challenged? Should I try and settle with the insurer's legal office? My fear is if a higher a lawyer and I lose the lawsuit, then I am out the money for the suit and the money for the lawyer. I do not get the injury with ultimately minor damage to this 3rd vehicle. I have details and I would like to know the best course of action moving forward. The desire is truly to put this behind me and my son. He is an engineering student and was coming home after studying for finals. I have all the details. A lawyer retainer from someone locally was 2K plus $300 an hour. Honestly this is very difficult to justify. I don't really know what to do as I have almost no savings, plus my son has no money and currently has 30K in student loan debt.
Binding arbitration is very hard to overturn: it is harder to challenge than appealing a court decision. A binding arbitration determination of fault, even it was wrong, as practical matter means your son was legally found to be at fault: he was already found to be liable. You can't contest liability as a practical matter; you could try to challenge the amount of the damages (the amount they are seeking) but that will be very difficult for a layperson (nonlawyer) and, even without a lawyer, will be expensive: you'd have to hire a medical expert to go over the medical reports in litigation (if you don't pay and they sue you, they'll have to turn these over) so your expert can explain to the court how the injuries were not due to your son (e.g. are fake or were pre-existing) and/or are exaggerated (or the bills padded).
For $14k, it's not clear that fighting is worthwhile: the medical expert will cost you, most likely $1,500 - $3,000, and if you don't hire a lawyer, you'll most likely lose and not be able to knock down the amount. Even if you hire a lawyer, assuming there were any injuries, you will at most reduce the $14k--but if you pay around $5k - $8k or more in expert and legal bills, that may not help.
The best bet may be to try to settle for a somewhat lower amount and a payment plan you and your son can meet.