Can You Sue for More Than an Auto Insurance Policy’s Limits?

Can You Sue for More Than an Auto Insurance Policy’s Limits?

California requires drivers to carry auto insurance, but the minimums are low. Only $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident bodily injury and $5,000 for property damage are required.

Car accident damages can quickly exceed these amounts. You may be wondering what you can do.

Our San Bernardino car accident attorneys at LA Century Law discuss suing for more than someone’s auto insurance policy’s limits.

Can You Sue for More Than an Auto Insurance Policy’s Maximums?

You can sue for the full extent of your damages allowed by law even if it is more than auto insurance policy limits. The defendant may be liable through personal assets.

In addition, your own uninsured or underinsured policy or the defendant’s umbrella coverage may provide compensation. You may sue any additional parties who have liability.

When You Need to Sue for More Than Auto Insurance Policy Limits

  • Defendant’s assets: A defendant may be liable to pay through their income, savings and assets.
  • Umbrella coverage: Additional insurance that covers a variety of circumstances. It is optional, but many people have it.
  • Uninsured/underinsured policy: You may have selected this additional coverage that can provide compensation.
  • Other parties with liability: You may pursue compensation against anyone liable for the accident. There may be multiple parties at fault.

How a lawyer can help

The attorneys at LA Century Law can evaluate insurance and ways for you to collect your compensation. We give you honest advice and practical solutions when your damages may exceed an auto insurance policy’s limit. Our attorneys can represent you in all aspects of maximizing compensation for your claim.

How Often Do Auto Accident Settlements Exceed the Policy Limits?

Although auto accident settlements may exceed policy limits, it is rare. A settlement may be more than limits where the defendant has personal assets to satisfy a judgment. A more common situation is where the insurance company failed to act in good faith and settle the claim within policy limits. In California, an insurance company that refuses to settle a claim in good faith may be liable for the full judgment at trial even if the amount exceeds policy limits.

How to find out someone’s insurance policy limits in California

To find out someone’s insurance policy limits in California, you may:

  • Ask them: But be careful — they may not know or provide correct information.
  • Ask the insurance company: In California, the insurer must ask the insured for permission to disclose the information.
  • File a lawsuit: They must tell you in discovery.

The insurance company may willingly tell you the policy limits. If the limits are small, they may freely admit that it’s all they’re liable to pay. However, if it’s a large policy, they may resist sharing the information.

You may have to file a lawsuit to know the policy limits. However, refusing to provide the information, even in pre-litigation, may subject the insurance company to liability for a judgment exceeding policy limits.

Insurance Policy Limit Disclosures After an Auto Accident in California

California Insurance Code § 791.13(a) requires the insured to provide written consent before disclosing policy limits in response to a pre-litigation request.

When you ask for policy limits, the insurance company should ask the insured for permission to disclose them. If they don’t, the insurance company may be acting in bad faith.

Bad faith liability may be significant. If found in bad faith, the insurance company may be liable for the entire judgment even if it exceeds policy limits.

Before a lawsuit is filed

As the litigant, you must make the appropriate request for the insurance company to disclose policy limits. By doing so, you’re taking steps toward a fair and timely resolution of your claim.

In addition, you’re creating the possibility of claiming compensation exceeding policy limitations if the insurance company is found in bad faith in failing to make discloses.

See Aguilar v. Gostischef, 220 Cal.App.4th 475 (Cal.Ct.App. 2013), a claim for car accident compensation. The defendant had a $100,000 policy limit. The victim had medical expenses totaling $507,718. The victim requested policy limits to aid in making a settlement offer. They asked twice, with no response. They filed a lawsuit. The defense then offered to settle for the policy limit. The court upheld an excess verdict of $2.3 million and an award of costs. The court said that an insurer who refuses a reasonable settlement offer within policy limits is liable for the resulting judgment without regard for limits.

(See also Biocourt v. Amex Assurance Co., 78 Cal.App.4th (2000), stating that refusal to disclose policy limits before litigation may result in bad faith liability; but compare Reid v. Mercury Insurance Co., 220 Cal.App.4th (Cal.Ct.App. 2013), where there was no bad faith where the victim failed to produce medical records for several months, followed by a three-month delay in disclosing policy limits.)

After a lawsuit is filed

After formally filing a lawsuit, your attorney submits Form Interrogatories DISC-001 for general civil litigation. Question 4.1(3) asks about limits for any insurance policies that may apply to the claim.

Get Legal Help for an Accident That Exceeds Policy Limits

LA Century Law is a premier law firm in California that has recovered millions for clients including victims of car accidents. If damages may exceed policy limits, there are things you can do. However, the steps you must take are technical and complex.

Work with the legal team with a 99% success rate. Let us pursue all avenues for your compensation when you need to sue for more than auto insurance policy limits. Contact us online or call our offices now.

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