car accident

Can You Recover More Than the Insurance Policy Limits After a Car Accident?

California law entitles car accident victims to seek damages for their injuries against at-fault parties. When a victim files a claim for damages, it is often the at-fault party’s insurance company that settles the claim and pays compensation to the victim according to policy limits. 

What happens when the claim award exceeds the insurance policy limits?  Can you recover more than the insurance policy limits after a car accident?  The short answer is yes, you can. It is not easy, and you will need an experienced and savvy California car accident attorney to navigate the claim on your behalf. 

4 Ways to Recover More than the Insurance Policy Limit After a Car Accident

Policyholders pay insurance premiums based on specific coverage and policy limits for each area of coverage. For instance, if a driver’s policy has a property damage limit of $3,500, that is the most their insurance company will pay toward a property damage claim.  

Unfortunately, car accident claims often exceed insurance policy limits, particularly when involving severe personal injury cases. Even if a court awards more than the insurance limit is slated to pay, the insurer will generally hold to their policy limit. This makes collecting the award difficult. 

In these circumstances, a seasoned car accident attorney might suggest one or more of these four strategies to recover a full award:

1. Suing Multiple Defendants 

Car accident claims against multiple at-fault defendants often provide access to various insurance policies from which claims can be paid. Defendants may be held jointly and severally liable for damages, and the award will be pulled from each insurance policy to compensate the full amount. 

2. The Umbrella Policy

Sometimes, though rare, defendants may carry an “umbrella” policy, which provides extra coverage above the primary policy. Umbrella policies are designed to take effect when a policyholder’s liability exceeds primary policy limits.  If a defendant has an umbrella policy, it may cover the total of your damage award. 

3. Suing the At-fault Driver 

If the award for damages exceeds the insurance policy limits, you may be able to seek compensation for the difference by suing the defendant directly. However, depending on the award amount, the defendant may not have enough personal assets to cover the payout, and collecting the award may be virtually impossible. 

4. Insurance Bad-Faith

Insurance bad faith is when an insurance company can settle a reasonable and provable claim made by the car accident victim yet refuses to do so. 

Suppose a claimant is willing to settle against an at-fault driver, within the limits of the insured party’s policy, and the insurer refuses. In that case, the insurer may be liable for the full amount of damages awarded against the defendant. 

Why You Need a California Car Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  

Navigating insurance settlements and personal injury lawsuits is a complicated process that requires the skill and experience of a seasoned car accident attorney.  This is especially true in cases of potentially high-dollar settlements that may exceed the at-fault party’s insurance policy limits.


To better understand your rights and the options available to you based on your case particulars, contact our office today. Together with one of our experienced California car accident attorneys, you can strategize the best course of action to win the compensation you deserve.