Motorists in the United States are legally obliged to carry a designated amount of auto liability insurance.
Unfortunately, the minimum requirements in place will not necessarily provide adequate coverage for the damages you sustain in an accident, especially if the car wreck results in catastrophic injuries.
This does not necessarily mean that a majority of auto accident claims settle for an amount exceeding policy limits, though.
What Type of Car Accident Injuries Are Associated with Claims That Exceed Policy Limits?
These are the injuries most associated with larger car accident settlements:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
- Catastrophic injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries, including herniated discs and injuries requiring spine surgeries.
It may takes months to reach a settlement. Consider applying for car accident loans to keep you and your family financially afloat..
Insurance Policy Limits – How Do They Work?
All auto liability insurance has a specific policy limit. This limit is the maximum dollar value the insurer will pay for damages caused to the insured in an auto accident.
How is it possible, then, for a compensation claim to exceed those limits?
Imagine being involved in a wreck and the insurance policy of the at-fault driver has a policy limit of $50,000 for bodily injury. Even if your medical expenses, lost earnings, and non-economic damages total more than this amount, the policy limits would cap the settlement.
Is it possible to collect any excess damages, though?
Is It Possible to Collect the Full Value of Your Car Accident Claim If It Exceeds Policy Limits?
It is possible to collect damages totaling an amount exceed policy limits in place, but it is also highly unlikely you will be successful.
Retaining an experienced personal injury attorney will strengthen your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.
These are the three main options at your disposal to collect a settlement for more than the value of auto insurance policy limits:
- Filing a lawsuit against several at-fault parties
- Collecting from the driver at fault
- Collecting through an umbrella policy
1) Filing a lawsuit against several at-fault parties
In some accidents, there is more than one party potentially liable, legally and financially.
If you are involved in a collision with an at-fault motorist driving on behalf of their employer, you have the option of suing that employer per respondeat superior. This legal doctrine can be used to hold employers responsible for the negligent actions of their employees in the line of duty.
You can file a claim against all at-fault parties in an accident. Each party involved will be deemed liable for a portion of your medical costs depending on the percentage of blame attached to that party.
If you are able to prove that multiple defendants were acting in concert – a business conducting a joint venture, for example – you may hold those defendants jointly accountable for the losses and damages you incur as a result of the auto accident.
2) Collecting from the driver at fault
If your case does not involve multiple defendants or umbrella policies – see below – your only option is to try collecting personally from the at-fault driver with insurance limits preventing you from claiming the compensation you deserve.
You may find the defendant has no assets worth collecting, or they could have assets that are exempt from collection.
The harsh reality is that most defendants who carry insufficient auto insurance are unlikely to have many assets of value.
If the defendant has property, shares, cash, or vehicles, your lawyer can help you initiate the recovery process.
3) Collecting through an umbrella policy
If your case involves a single party deemed at-fault for the accident, you may need to deal with multiple insurers when attempting to recover damages exceeding policy limits.
Umbrella policies offer bolt-on liability coverage beyond the limits of the primary auto insurance policy.
Many people with assets requiring protection opt for an umbrella policy, at the same time ensuring more than enough insurance coverage is in place.
What To Do If You Are Involved in a Car Accident and Suffer Injuries
If you are injured in a car collision, you should always seek prompt medical evaluation, for the sake of safety and also to document your injuries.
Photograph the accident scene and obtain contact details of any witnesses to the accident.
You should then consider consulting an experienced personal injury attorney on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will pay nothing upfront for legal costs.
While you focus on recovering from your accident injuries, a lawyer can help build you case, proving the liability of the other driver.
Your attorney can then negotiate with the insurer of the at-fault party or parties, ideally achieving a fair and reasonable settlement for your losses, damages, injuries, and any emotional pain and suffering caused by the accident.
In the event of running into problems with insurance policy limits, an experienced attorney can help you execute one of the above strategies to recover maximum damages.