It is not unusual in many car accident lawsuits for the defendant to be someone with whom the plaintiff is close. In some cases, the defendant is even a household member - a spouse, a parent or grandparent.
The point in these injury cases is not necessarily to collect damages directly from that individual (though in theory, you could). Rather, the goal is to collect damages from the defendant's insurance company. The reason the relative or close friend is named is because injury claimants in Connecticut cannot sue the insurance company directly. Instead, as the accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone & Morelli can explain, the plaintiff must first prove the named party/insured was in fact liable for the accident, and therefore, the insurance company will be compelled to pay.
But in a recent case before the Utah Supreme Court, one woman is fighting for the right to sue herself for her own negligence that resulted in her husband's death in a single-car auto accident. Courts across the country are closely watching the developments in Bagley v. Bagley, which could impact how the judges handle such cases in the future.
The court will be asked to decide whether the woman can play dual roles - both plaintiff and defendant - in the case. She argues she should be allowed to do so because in her plaintiff role, she is not acting as herself, but rather as personal representative of the estate of her husband. Defense, meanwhile, argues that under no circumstances should a person be able to sue themselves for negligence, as this serves as incentive to at-fault drivers.
According to news reports of the case, the woman was driving through the desert with her husband when she lost control of her Range Rover. The sport utility vehicle flipped, and her 55-year-old husband was thrown from the car, suffering ultimately fatal injuries.
Plaintiff alleges in her lawsuit that she failed to maintain a proper lookout and keep proper control while she was driving, and that this negligent action resulted in the unnecessary death of her husband. She seeks compensation of medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of past and future financial support and compensation for the physical pain her husband suffered before his death, more than a week after the crash.
As plaintiff, she is represented by a private injury lawyer, while as defendant, she is represented by her car insurance carrier.
Car insurance carrier attorneys have argued the case should be dismissed, reasoning that jurors are going to be highly confused when asked to determine how much money the woman should pay herself. They also assert that the claim is contrary to Utah law, and allowing someone to sue themselves could incentivize fraud.
An attorney representing the woman in her plaintiff's capacity alleges that yes, on the face of it, Utah law prohibits someone from suing themselves. However, he said plaintiff is technically another entity - not herself - as personal representative of her husband's estate. The question of damages is not before the state high court and he argues there is nothing in the law that expressly precludes this kind of action. It's a valid cause of action, her attorney argued.
Justices have taken the matter under consideration and plan to issue a ruling in the next several months.
This case represents something of a rarity in personal injury law. What is far more common is to bring action against loved ones. In either case, it's important to note the point is not pursuing financial compensation from that person directly, but rather for the insurance companies that are responsible to cover damages for which their insureds are liable.
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