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Car Accidents

What happens when a car accident exceeds insurance limits?

By February 7, 2024March 6th, 2024No Comments

Some car accidents are minor, but many are serious. People who survive serious car accidents may be saddled with massive medical bills. They’ve lost months of income and might be permanently disabled. When car accident injuries are severe, the related costs can easily exceed the insurance policy coverage. Learn more below about car accidents that exceed policy limits. If you suffered an injury in a car accident and another party was at fault, a Chico car accident lawyer can seek much-needed compensation.

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Auto Insurance Policy Minimums

What happens when a car accident exceeds insurance limitsEvery state requires all drivers to have auto insurance, and each has minimum policy coverage that drivers must buy. Common minimum coverages for auto insurance are:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $60,000 for bodily injury per accident
  • $25,000 for property damage

The above are the minimum coverages in many states, but drivers can carry more. It’s usually smart to carry additional coverage in case a driver causes an accident with serious damages. When insurance coverage runs out, the at-fault party may be personally liable for the rest. You might need to file a civil lawsuit and have their personal assets seized to obtain additional damages.

Fortunately, most auto accidents don’t exceed policy limits. However, if another driver injures you and your damages are greater than policy limits, the insurance company will only pay the amount of the insurance coverage. Any other unpaid expenses you have won’t be covered.

Car Accident Losses Can Add Up Quickly

A car accident can have significant financial consequences. From medical bills to lost income, the costs can quickly add up and leave accident victims struggling to recover both physically and financially. Always understand the potential losses you may face and how an attorney can seek compensation for your damages.

One of the immediate concerns after a car accident is the medical expenses. Even seemingly minor injuries can result in expensive treatments and rehabilitation. From emergency room visits to surgeries, physical therapy, and medication, the medical bills can become overwhelming. Without the proper legal representation, accident victims may struggle to cover these costs on their own.

In addition to medical bills, car accident victims often experience lost income due to their injuries. If you are unable to work while recovering, you may suffer a significant financial setback. This loss of income can make it difficult to pay for everyday expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, and groceries. An attorney can help you pursue compensation for your lost wages and future earning capacity, providing you with the financial stability you need to focus on your recovery.

Car accidents can also result in permanent disabilities and disfigurement. These life-altering injuries can have long-term physical, emotional, and financial implications. An attorney can help you seek compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured, as well as any mental anguish or emotional distress caused by the accident.

Also consider the future expenses that may arise as a result of your accident. Ongoing medical treatments, therapies, and the need for adaptive equipment may require significant financial resources. An attorney can help you calculate these future medical costs and fight for the compensation you need to ensure your long-term well-being.

What Do You Do If The Damage Is More Than Policy Limits?

If you’re hurt by a driver in a car accident and your injuries and damages exceed policy limits, the other party may be liable for the rest. This means they can be liable for paying for the excess sum from their pocket, which can cause great financial difficulties. This is why carrying more than minimal auto insurance limits is often wise. If the other driver has substantial assets, they can be vulnerable in a car accident lawsuit where the insurance coverage doesn’t cover all damages.

After settling with the at-fault driver’s insurance provider, there are other options to consider to pursue the rest of your damages:

Underinsured And Uninsured Driver Coverage

Suppose that the at-fault driver who injured you doesn’t have insurance. Unfortunately, many drivers flaunt the law and don’t pay for coverage. In this situation, one option is to rely on your own underinsured and uninsured driver coverage for your losses. This part of your policy offers coverage if the other driver doesn’t have coverage or doesn’t have enough to pay your damages.

This part of your policy is useful if a hit-and-run driver injures you. Your car accident attorney can work with your insurance company to tap your underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage.

Umbrella Insurance Policy

The at-fault driver may have an umbrella insurance policy. If so, you may tap the policy to pay for your damages exceeding auto insurance policy limits. Your attorney can determine if the at-fault party has other types of insurance to compensate you. The other driver might have an umbrella policy that covers home, auto, and other personal liability issues that can pay for your losses.

Other Parties Can Be Liable

The accident might have more than one party at fault. If that happens, you and your attorney can pursue damages from several defendants and obtain damages from several insurance policies. Your attorney can find all liable parties and insurance policies, including the following:

  • Employer: Suppose the at-fault driver was working for a delivery company when the crash happened. In that case, you can hold their employer vicariously liable for your injuries. If the person acted on behalf of their employer at the time of the accident, the insurance claim will be under the legal theory of respondeat superior. Your attorney will investigate the accident details to determine if the at-fault party was working.
  • Product manufacturers: Sometimes, a defective product or part in a vehicle contributes to an accident. If so, the vehicle or part manufacturer can be liable for your losses. For example, the Takata airbag company has been successfully sued for producing defective airbags that injured and killed dozens of people worldwide.
  • Government organizations: If a road defect contributed to your accident, you can sue the local or state government. The government can be liable if the accident is related to a hazardous road condition, defect, or hazard.

A common scenario is where a truck driver hits and injures another driver. Several parties may be at fault for the truck accident, such as the truck driver, his employer, the people who maintained the truck, the truck manufacturer, the company that loaded the trailer, or a truck parts manufacturer. A skilled car accident attorney must review such a complex case and determine every possible at-fault party and insurance policy.

Suing The Liable Driver

The last option when insurance coverage runs out is to sue the liable driver and obtain a judgment. However, this is difficult and might not result in more compensation. When the claim is more than policy limits, most people don’t have enough assets to make suing them worthwhile. Even if you get a judgment against a driver, there’s no guarantee they have any assets you can target.

Also, some states have laws that exempt certain possessions from seizure for civil judgments. For example, in most civil lawsuits, states have homestead laws that protect someone’s home from seizure.

Determining Liability After A Car Accident

Determining Liability After A Car AccidentIn many states, deciding whose auto insurance will pay damages comes down to determining who was at fault. After your attorney reports the car accident to your insurance company, the adjusters for both sides will collect the facts about the crash. Based on the crash details and applicable state law, they will decide who was at fault.

The process depends partially on the state in which you live. Currently, 18 states have no-fault insurance laws and require drivers to have personal injury protection or PIP. PIP covers the first few thousand dollars of your medical expenses and lost earnings.

If you live in a no-fault state, your lawyer will contact your auto insurance company to tap the PIP coverage. If your damages exceed PIP limits, you may be able, in some severe cases, to sue the at-fault driver. In most cases, your injuries must be considered severe and meet a threshold to leave the no-fault insurance system.

Insurance companies use different ways to determine liability if your state doesn’t have a no-fault law. A car accident attorney can work closely with you to ensure that the proper person is found at fault for the accident.

Your attorney will rely on the following information to prove the other driver was at fault:

How Can A Car Accident Attorney Help With A Claim Over Policy Limits?

Being in a serious car accident is bad enough. But imagine having serious injuries and the at-fault driver not having enough coverage to pay your damages! Fortunately, many ways hiring a car accident attorney can benefit your case:

Find Any Other Insurance Policies In Effect

One of the first things your attorney will do is find every potential insurance policy the at-fault party or parties have. There can be other insurance policies that can be tapped for potential compensation for your losses. A skilled attorney can find other insurance policies that might pay you.

More insurance coverage can be available in cases with other at-fault parties than you realize. For example, large commercial insurance policies can be in effect if a tractor-trailer hits and injures you.

Help You Avoid Insurance Company Intimidation Tactics

Insurance companies are notorious for attempting to get injured parties to accept a lowball settlement. They want you to get as little money as possible. But your car accident attorney will argue for the most money as they can. In many cases, the attorney will get the insurance company to offer policy limits for your damages.

Prove Fault

Most car accidents happen due to driver error. The insurance company won’t take your word for it if the other driver is completely at fault. Your attorney must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the other driver caused the accident. Your attorney will rely on eyewitness testimony, police reports, and physical evidence to prove the other driver caused the crash.

Sue The Other Driver

When there isn’t enough coverage to cover your medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If successful, you can get a judgment against the other driver and attempt to seize their assets to pay your damages. If the other driver has insufficient assets to seize, your attorney will talk to you about other options.

Determine Losses

Most injured parties don’t realize that medical expenses are only a portion of their losses. Without an attorney, you might not get full payment for your damages. Some of the additional money you might be entitled to are:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Mental and emotional anguish
  • Lost income
  • Future lost income and the loss of ability to earn a living
  • Property damage
  • Future medical expenses

It can be challenging for a non-attorney to understand their full damages. For example, how do you calculate your level of pain and suffering? Your attorney will work with your doctor to understand your injuries and the amount of discomfort you experience. They can also rely on previous settlements and verdict amounts to understand the compensation you can receive.

Negotiate With Your Insurance Company

When the other driver lacks sufficient auto insurance, getting the compensation you need can be difficult. Your attorney can negotiate with your insurance company if you have uninsured and underinsured insurance coverage. This policy rider might pay some of your lost earnings and medical bills if the other driver doesn’t have insurance or lacks enough coverage.

Contact A Car Accident Lawyer Today

Russell Reiner, Chico Car Accident Attorney

Russell Reiner, Car Accident Lawyer

Being seriously hurt in a car accident is scary. But it can be even more frightening when the at-fault party’s insurance is insufficient to pay your damages. A car accident attorney can determine the best legal path to receive the most compensation for your losses. Speak to a personal injury lawyer in Chico today to learn if you can obtain compensation through other means.

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