J&Y Law Firm discusses whether or not it's common for car accident settlements to exceed your insurance policy limits.

How Common Is It for Car Accident Settlements to Exceed Insurance Policy Limits?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

When a person is injured in a car accident, he or she may have an injury claim against one or more parties. In most cases, one of the drivers involved in the wreck is responsible for causing the accident. Accident victims file their claims with the insurance provider for the at-fault driver. 

However, the insurance company is only liable up to the policy limits of the driver’s liability insurance policy. Because damages can be significant after a car crash, victims may want to talk to a California car accident attorney as soon as possible to assess their legal rights and options regarding a car accident claim.

California’s Minimum Car Insurance Requirements

Each state sets minimum limits for automobile liability insurance policies. Drivers are required to purchase an insurance policy in the amount that equals or exceeds the minimum insurance amount or satisfy the insurance requirements in another way, such as posting a bond with the state. Most people purchase automobile liability insurance policies through an insurance company to satisfy state car insurance requirements.

In California, the state requires drivers to purchase a car insurance policy with at least:

  • $15,000 in personal liability coverage for injuries and damages sustained by one person
  • $30,000 in personal liability coverage for injuries and damages sustained by two or more people in one incident
  • $5,000 in property damage coverage

Drivers can purchase higher amounts of automobile liability insurance, but the above minimum amounts allow drivers to be “legal” when they drive. Unfortunately, the minimum car insurance amounts for California drivers often do not cover all losses and damages that an accident victim incurs.

For instance, surgery, hospital stay, and physical therapy can easily exceed the minimum coverage. Therefore, many car accidents result in damages that exceed insurance policy limits. What happens if there is not enough insurance to pay an accident claim?

Filing a Lawsuit Against the At-Fault Party

An accident victim may file a personal injury lawsuit against the party who caused the car accident seeking compensation for damages not covered by insurance. However, state law allows individuals to protect certain income and assets from personal judgments. Therefore, unless a person has substantial assets above the exemption levels, filing a lawsuit results in a worthless paper judgment.

An accident victim may be able to recover additional compensation in addition to compensation from the at-fault driver if the accident victim carries underinsured motorist coverage on the victim’s car insurance policy. Underinsured motorist coverage pays compensation to the insured if the insured sustained damages in an accident that was not the insured’s fault, but does not receive full compensation for damages because the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance or assets to pay the claim in full. An underinsured insurance claim is separate from the insurance claim filed against the other driver’s policy.

Contact a California Auto Accident Attorney for Help with Your Car Accident Settlement

It is frustrating to discover that you will not receive full compensation for your damages after a car crash because the other driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage to pay your claim. 

A California auto accident attorney investigates the crash to identify all parties who might have any liability for the claim. By filing claims against all parties responsible for the accident, you increase your chance of receiving full value for your claim. Contact us today for a free consultation. Our car accident lawyers also assist you in filing an underinsured motorist claim and other claims that can help you maximize your settlement for a car accident claim. 

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.