How Often Do Auto Accident Settlements Exceed Policy Limits?

It is black letter law that a car accident victim can receive compensation for all losses caused by the crash. However, as a practical matter, few people receive more than the defendant driver’s car insurance policy limit.

In Colorado, our state currently requires that those registering a vehicle carry a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per injured person, up to a maximum of $50,000 per accident. Unfortunately, where a claim exceeds policy limits, few victims receive more than $25,000.

At our firm, we are regularly asked how often do auto accident settlements exceed the policy limits, and the answer, unfortunately, is, “not very often.” Below, we will identify some ways to increase compensation.

Sue the Defendant Personally

This is always an option. You are not required to settle a car accident case. Instead, you are always free to march into court and sue the driver who injured you. There are definite problems with this approach, however:

  • You might lose at trial. Why risk it?
  • You might get less at trial than you would in a settlement.
  • You might win but the defendant still may not have assets to pay a judgment.

Let’s say you suffer $100,000 in medical care and lost wages. The defendant only has $50,000 in liability insurance. You can sue for the other $50,000, but it is up to you to collect on the judgment. A court will not help you.

Suing a defendant personally makes sense if they are very wealthy (though wealthy people may carry much more insurance). Some defendants might also have multiple insurance policies that can cover your accident.

Bring a Claim Against Multiple Defendants

Some car accidents involve more than 2 vehicles. You might be able to sue several drivers, especially if you were involved in a multi-car pileup.

If either your car or the car that hit you was defective, you might also sue the manufacturer, arguing that the defect contributed to the accident. Manufacturers have larger insurance policies, so you can receive more in compensation.

Allege Insurance Bad Faith

Colorado law requires that insurers settle a claim within the policy limit if they have an opportunity to do so. If they refuse, they could be responsible for the entire jury verdict against them. This can sometimes happen.

There are many examples of insurance bad faith that could put the insurer on the hook for more compensation:

  • Refusing to properly and timely investigate a crash
  • Not making payment in a timely manner
  • Failing to provide a prompt and reasonable explanation for denying a claim

In these cases, you can sometimes get more compensation from the insurance company in a bad-faith lawsuit. Bad-faith lawsuits can be difficult to navigate on your own, so working with an experienced car accident lawyer can help maximize your claim.

Speak to a Denver Car Accident Lawyer

Suing beyond policy limits is rarely successful, but each case is different. To determine how much compensation a person really has, you should meet with an attorney right away. Your lawyer can investigate and find out what is the best path forward. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.