What Happens If Someone Sues You for More Than Your Insurance Covers In Utah
An accident is a devastating experience, both physically and emotionally. Sometimes the trauma continues long past the initial accident when it’s time for injury victims to make claims for their damages.
In personal injury claims from car accidents and other injuries caused by negligence, “damages” refer to the economic and non-economic consequences of an accident or injury, such as property damage, medical expenses, lost income, and compensation for pain and suffering. If you made a driving error or otherwise caused serious injuries to someone else, you may be worried about the consequences of a potential lawsuit.
What if you only carry the minimum required insurance coverage and the amount of the damages exceeds your coverage limit? What happens if an injury victim sues you for more money than your insurance policy covers?
Can an Accident Lawsuit Impact My Personal Funds?
If your driving error, negligence, or reckless actions resulted in injuries to others, you are liable for their damages. Typically, the injury victims file a claim directly against the insurance policy of the at-fault party in fault-based insurance states like Utah—a modified comparative negligence state. But what if you carry only the minimum required insurance, for instance, Utah’s required $25,000 per person and $65,000 per accident, and two accident victims have damages amounting to $100,000? Can the injury victims sue you for the difference? The answer is yes. Your insurance policy will only pay the $65,000 limit to the injured victims, leaving you responsible for the remaining $35,000.
How Do I Pay Outstanding Damages if I’m Sued for More Than My Insurance Covers?
The good news is that your insurance company will first attempt to lower the amount of damage the injury victims can claim. Insurance adjusters investigate the accident in order to determine if the other party in the accident shared fault for the accident in any way. Your attorney will also investigate fault in the accident.
In a modified comparative negligence system, the payout on a claim for damages is minus the injury victim’s percentage of fault. For instance, if the investigation shows the other driver was speeding at the time the accident occurred, it could have lengthened their stopping time or impeded their reaction time. Even if you accidentally ran a stop sign, if the other driver was speeding, the insurance adjuster could determine them as partly at fault. If the victim’s damages amount to $100,000 but they were 20% at fault for the accident, they’ll recover $80,000. If your insurance pays the maximum of $65,000, you’ll owe $15,000 instead of the original $35,000.
A car accident lawyer in Salt Lake City can help defend your rights and best interests through this process. In some cases, they can negotiate a settlement to minimize the amount you have to pay out of your personal funds or help ensure you don’t have to pay anything personally.
If you’re held liable for damages and you are unable to pay the amount you owe the victim, they can garnish your wages or potentially place a lien on any property you own. It’s critical to have a full and vigorous defense through an experienced Salt Lake City personal injury attorney to protect your assets.