Can Someone Sue You for a Car Accident If You Have Insurance?
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If it has been determined that you were the at-fault driver in an auto accident, numerous questions are sure to flood your mind. What were the damages? How much will this cost me? Will my insurance cover everything? Can I be sued?
If you do not have any car insurance, then the only way for the other driver to recover any damages and pay for medical bills is to sue you.
But, even if you have insurance, you can still be sued for a car accident. These cases typically arise from one of two scenarios: inadequate insurance and delays in the claims process.
Sued for Inadequate Insurance
Each state has a minimum amount of liability insurance required to drive. In some states, however, these minimums can be quite low: $25,000 for property damage and $50,000 for bodily injury. The average bodily injury claim, unfortunately, is much higher than the minimum at $52,900.
So, if your insurance cannot cover the entirety of the claim, the other driver may sue to recover the excess damages. These are especially common when coverage is well below the amount of the claim. Bodily injury claims can easily surpass $75,000 or $100,000 in some instances.
This makes it important for you as the policyholder to know what type of coverage you have and what the minimum required amounts are. If you know that the minimum coverage is extremely low, it is well worth doubling or tripling up on the coverage amount.
Delays in the Claims Process
Every state has a statute of limitations on insurance claims. This is the amount of time following an accident a driver has to sue before he or she no longer has a claim. In most states, this varies between 1 and 5 years depending on the type of damage: property or bodily.
If the claims process is taking excessively long and approaching the amount of time granted by the state’s statute of limitations, a driver may have to sue. Suing pauses the clock on the statute of limitations so some drivers will sue preemptively just to be safe.
Then if the claim is finally settled, he or she waives their right to sue. Or, if the insurance is inadequate, the driver can keep the lawsuit.
What About No-Fault States?
In most states, an auto accident is considered a tort case. This means that someone is typically considered at-fault and the aggrieved driver can seek remedy against him or her.
However, some states are no-fault, where drivers can only seek compensation from their insurance provider. Fault essentially becomes a non-issue. There is one exception though.
Some of those no-fault states allow aggrieved parties to sue the at-fault driver for what is considered extra compensation. These states typically set a threshold for bodily or property damages that once met allows the aggrieved party to sue for the excess costs.
These thresholds are either verbal or monetary. Verbal thresholds are satisfied by “severe injury” or “death” alone. Monetary thresholds, instead, must surpass a specific dollar amount.
What to Do If You Have Been Sued for a Car Accident
If you have been sued for a car accident, it is important to remain calm. Most of the time these cases are eventually determined via insurance or settled with reasonable terms.
However, these cases can move quickly. So it is important that you take the appropriate steps right away.
Communicate With Your Insurance Provider
You should be communicating with your insurance provider from the moment the accident happened. Keep them updated on any legal suits that arise. Ask them what type of support they will provide or notify them of any actions you plan to take.
Speak With a Lawyer
Consulting with an auto accident lawyer can be costly, but they are the experts. They are familiar with state laws and insurance policies so they can provide customized support.
A good lawyer will help you with the following:
- Pressure your insurance provider to pay. Your insurance provider has a legal obligation. If they have gone rogue or are simply delaying payment for the accident, an attorney can help pressure them to settle the claim.
- Fight the case. Simply because the other driver alleges that you were the at-fault driver, does not mean you have to settle. An attorney can help you fight your case and prove that you were not actually at fault. Or, if the fault was split between the parties, you can still be eligible for reduced liability.
Does My Insurance Cover the Costs of an Attorney?
Generally speaking, your insurance provider will provide you with an accident attorney. That is included in your liability coverage.
However, they will not provide an attorney under certain circumstances. These include:
- Intentional damage: If you are being accused of intentionally causing an accident, that could void your coverage. Most providers only cover negligent acts. If it is eventually determined that you did not intentionally cause the damage, you may receive retroactive support from your provider. But this is not always the case.
- Damage exceeds policy limit: The costs for a lawyer are typically included in your liability coverage. So, once an insurance provider pays for that full amount of coverage, they no longer have a responsibility to you.
- No notice of the accident: If you, as the policyholder, failed to report the accident to your insurance provider within the time period allotted in your policy, that may void any responsibility they have to you.
Whether your insurance provider covers the cost for an attorney or not, it is imperative that you speak to one when you are sued for an auto accident. They will help you navigate any legal and insurance-related obstacles that arise.
Final Word – Can You Be Sued Even If You Have Insurance?
The short answer is that yes, you still can be sued for a car accident even if you have insurance. If you have insurance, however, you might not have to worry about this. Your liability insurance usually pays for all legal bills related to an accident you are liable for.
After a car accident, you can typically be sued for three reasons:
- You don’t have insurance
- You don’t have enough insurance
- Your insurance provider is taking too long to pay the claim
If you find out you are being sued after an auto accident, the best thing to do is contact a lawyer immediately. Lawyers will fight the case and pressure your insurance company to pay the claim.