I have a serious personal injury case, but can I get what it is worth?
If you have as serious personal injury case (i.e. significant injuries and large medical bills) you will most definitely need to determine the amount of the other party’s insurance coverage. However, you may find that your case is not really “worth” what it should be if the coverage is low. It is important to find out how much the other party’s insurance coverage is, because that is an indicator of the maximum amount of money you will be able to get from that person for damages they caused you in your bicycle, motorcycle, pedestrian or car accident. There are some instances when you might look to that party’s personal assets to pay amounts above their insurance coverage, but those situations are very rare.
How much is your personal injury case worth?
Of course, this is one of the most frequently asked questions by clients: “How much is my personal injury case worth?” Determining the value of the case is certainly important to do, but the actual value of the case is irrelevant if there is not enough money to cover the value of the case. For instance, if evaluation of all of the factors of the case indicates it may be worth a million dollars, but the person who caused the accident only has $50,000.00 of insurance coverage (and no collectible assets), then the case is “worth” $50,000.00. As I have discussed in detail, one out of three drivers in California carries the minimum liability insurance limit of $15,000.00 or NO liability insurance at all. So, it is important to find out as early in the case as possible how much insurance coverage the other party had at the time of the accident.
How much insurance coverage is available in the case?
THE OTHER PARTY’S COVERAGE:
There are a variety of ways you can find out what sort of insurance coverage the other party was carrying at the time of the accident. When we open a claim with the other party’s insurance company, our first communication to them demands that they disclose the liability limits of the other party’s policy to us. However, the insurance company has to get permission from their insured (the driver) to tell us how much insurance coverage they have. If they get permission, they tell us, and we can proceed accordingly.
When they do NOT get permission from the other party, the insurance adjuster will often “hint” to us about the limits. For instance, even if they didn’t get permission, but their driver is carrying the California minimum, they might say that the limits were “minimal.” Sometimes they will say “they are more than the minimum,” which means they are probably $30,000 or $50,000. I have even had them tell me the limits are “high and it should not be a problem.” But, you cannot know for sure if these “hints” are accurate and it is best to operate from a clear understanding of what the actual insurance limits are.
So, if we do not get disclosure (with a copy of the other party’s insurance policy declarations page which sets out their coverage), I will hire a professional insurance policy search company to find out the policy limits. These companies charge a few hundred dollars, but it is worth it, because this information determine how you will proceed in the case. Is it a $15,000 case, or is it a $100,000 case? The workup and negotiation process in the case is very different in these two scenarios. If the lawsuit in your personal injury case has already been filed, then the other side is required to disclose their policy limits in response to Form Interrogatory 4.1. However, at my office, I like to find out the limits well before we file suit and enter into litigation.
Another important thing to know is how much insurance YOU have that might provide more money for your personal injury case than just the other party’s coverage. If you carry uninsured motorist coverage, it will likely cover you for damages above and beyond what is covered by the third party’s carrier.
If there are multiple insurance policies involved in your case, it is advisable to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney who focuses on your type of case, as they can help you navigate through this complicated process and alleviate your stress, so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
If you have any questions about a particular personal injury case, please submit your case for review by the experienced personal injury lawyers at Sally Morin Law in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose and Oakland, California.