Anyone accused of being liable for an accident that caused injury or damage deserves the chance to defend themselves. But you also want to avoid spending unnecessary time or energy on legal pursuits. One legal tool can help you achieve all these goals. This tool is the counterclaim. What is a counterclaim? When should you consider it and why? Here are some answers to your questions. 

What is a Counterclaim?

When you are served with a civil complaint, you generally have two options. You may either respond solely to the complaint or notify the court that you wish to make a related cross-complaint against the plaintiff. 

This is a counterclaim, and it is adjudicated in the same trial as the original claim. The facts in dispute must be the same, and the same jury will determine who is liable and for how much. 

When Should You Counterclaim?

There are a few compelling reasons to pursue a counterclaim. 

The first is when you honestly believe and can demonstrate that the other party was the one at fault. Being accused wrongly of liability, even when you have insurance to pay for any judgment, is distressing and may have future effects. For instance, your insurer may raise your rates or bar you from renewing a policy. Being able to show that the plaintiff was the cause does more than mitigate the damage to your reputation — it reverses it. 

Second, you may opt to submit a counterclaim when your insurance carrier deems it not worthwhile to do so themselves. Some insurers and policy wording allow the defendant to do this on their own, while others do not. Remember, your insurer's motivation is to save money while yours may be to defend your reputation or avoid future financial consequences to yourself.

Finally, the state personal injury rules about shared liability could mean that being proactive can save you a lot of money. In states which follow contributory negligence, for instance, you may not have to pay at all if you can prove that the plaintiff was even 1% at fault or if you keep your own liability under a threshold percentage. So a counterclaim could be a good investment.

Where Should You Start?

Lodging a counterclaim does make both the pre-trial process and the trial more complicated, so don't rush into it. Start by learning more about counterclaims in your jurisdiction by meeting with a car accident lawyer in your state today.