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Is It True Defendants Can Add Third Parties To Personal Injury Lawsuits?

A strange thing sometimes happens during lawsuits. The plaintiff will file suit against the defendant, but suddenly, a second (or third or fourth) person is added to the proceedings using a legal maneuver called impleader without the plaintiff's prior knowledge or consent. Here's how this comes about and the affect it has on your case.

Attempting to Legally Pass the Buck

A motion for impleader usually comes about when the defendant in the lawsuit feels a third party is either partially or fully liable for the events that caused the plaintiff's injuries and damages. In most cases, the plaintiff has no knowledge of the additional parties until the defendant adds them to the lawsuit. Sometimes, though, the plaintiff may be aware of the third party but chooses to exclusively sue the defendant because all the evidence points to the person's guilt. Regardless, the defendant may have enough evidence to indicate another party was at fault and uses impleader to launch a case against the individual.

It's important to note that the defendant's case against the third party is semi-separate from the plaintiff's case against the defendant. Impleader does not result in defendants being added to the plaintiff's original lawsuit. The plaintiff suit is still only against the defendant name in his or her court papers. Rather, if the court finds for the defendant in his or her suit against the third party, that third party will be responsible for paying some or all of any award the original plaintiff may win in his or her case.

Consequences of Impleader Motions

As you can imagine, having a defendant succeed with his or her impleader motion can have a big impact on whether or not you are actually compensated for your injuries and losses. If the third party in the defendant's lawsuit is an insurance company or a business, then this motion may work out better for you because these entities have the resources to pay court judgments.

On the other hand, if the third party is another individual, you may win your case but have trouble collecting the judgment simply because the person doesn't have the cash or assets to pay. Another problem that may develop is the third party can still attack the plaintiff's claim against the defendant. This can result in a complete dismissal of the lawsuit if the third-party entity is successful.

Luckily, it's possible to prevent the defendant from using impleader to join his or her lawsuit against the third party to your personal injury case using a variety of countermeasures. If you suspect this may happen, consult with a civil litigation lawyer as soon as possible for advice on the best way to proceed.