If I Received a Court Summons After a Car Accident, Should I Seek a Court-Appointed Lawyer?

Written by James Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the incident, you might be required to appear in court after being involved in a car accident. If you receive a summons after such an event, you should remain calm. It's important to note that there are plenty of reasons that someone in your situation could receive a summons. Not all of these reasons involve your criminal or civil culpability for the accident in which you were involved. In fact, many individuals are summoned to court after a car accident to serve as witnesses in the case. It's entirely possible that you'll be asked to testify about the events that transpired before, during and after the accident.

If this is the case, you may not have to worry about getting a lawyer. After all, you haven't been charged with a crime and don't appear to be the focus of an investigation. However, there are certain circumstances under which it might still make sense for you to get a lawyer. If you're worried that your testimony might incriminate you, you should talk to a legal professional to evaluate your options.

It's somewhat more likely that you've received a summons as a result of your direct involvement in the incident. If this is the case, your summons could have two potential meanings. First, it could be the natural outcome of a criminal investigation into the accident. In other words, you might need to answer to certain criminal or violation-related charges. Alternatively, it could be the result of a civil suit filed by another party to the accident. In this case, you'll be called to court to answer a civil lawsuit that might carry serious financial penalties.

Whether you're being called to court to answer to a criminal or civil matter, you should probably retain a lawyer. The reason for this is simple: The consequences of losing your case could be serious. In most cases, criminal summonses are not issued for inconsequential charges. If you receive a court summons, it's because you've been charged with a fairly serious crime like reckless endangerment or impaired driving. These crimes typically carry hefty fines and the possibility of jail time. Although many accused individuals attempt to defend themselves against such charges, such a course of action is not generally recommended. Your court-appointed lawyer will be able to react appropriately as the case unfolds and may need to draw upon his or her base of legal knowledge to mount a successful defense.

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