Should I accept the policy limit of the at-fault driver, even if it only covers a fraction of my damages? Fourteen months ago, I was involved in a motorcycle crash where the at-fault driver failed to stop at a red arrow left-turn-light. The medical bills alone amount to about $100,000, but the liable driver’s insurance policy maxes out at $15,000 for bodily injury. I did not carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. My attorney says a background check on her did not reveal any assets they could go after in a personal injury lawsuit. In a personal questionnaire that my attorney had her fill out via the insurance company, she also stated that she does not have any assets and is basically broke and about to file bankruptcy. Are there any other options for me to make sure if she has any assets to go after? Or should I accept the meager settlement offer and forfeit the right to sue?
In all civil cases, plaintiffs will ordinarily want to know whether defendants have the financial means to satisfy a judgment—primary coverage, as well as possible “excess” and/or umbrella coverage. However, discovery of insurance information also impacts these particularly important aspects of personal injury litigation. Before meaningful settlement discussions can get under way, the claim must be assigned a reasonable settlement value. For this purpose, claimant will need to know whether the tortfeasors have applicable insurance coverage and, if so, what the policy limits are, whether there are excess and/or umbrella coverages, and whether the insureds and/or carriers claim the policy does not apply. No matter how severe the injury, top settlement value is necessarily limited by the financial resources available to satisfy the claim. Thus, the policy limits and defendant’s personal assets must be taken into account in determining what the case can settle for. Various options are available to the parties where good faith negotiating efforts fail to bring about a reasonable settlement. For instance, an early “policy limits demand” letter to defense insurance carriers is a popular plaintiffs’ tactic to speed along the settlement process. The demand letter recaps the liability case against the insured and itemizes plaintiff’s consequential damages to date (itemized wage losses, medical expenses, etc.). It typically requests a “policy limits” settlement, “reminding” the insurer of its “excess liability” exposure to its insured in the event the case does not settle and a judgment beyond policy limits is entered against the insured defendant. Plaintiff need not seek the same remedy in the action at law that he or she sought in the administrative proceeding. So long as plaintiff pursues the same wrong, defendant has adequate notice of the claim and is not prejudiced by the delay in filing suit[Daviton v. Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp]. It would best to seek personal assistance from a lawyer in order to guide you with your personal injury claim.
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