What Happens When a Car Accident Exceeds Insurance Limits?

What Happens When a Car Accident Exceeds Insurance Limits?

What happens when a car accident exceeds insurance limits depends on how your accident occurred. If someone else’s negligent behavior contributed to the crash, you can sue them for any losses the applicable policy doesn’t cover.

If you need help understanding what the policies cover and their limits, you should get in touch with your insurance agent and/or a car accident attorney right away.

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Accident Exceeds Insurance

What Are My Insurance Limits?

All states require drivers to purchase car insurance. The amount of insurance and the types of policies vary by state.

Minimums may pay tens of thousands of dollars to cover:

  • Damage to vehicles
  • Bodily injuries to drivers and passengers
  • Damage inflicted by uninsured or underinsured drivers

As an example, say that your state requires drivers to purchase a $25,000 policy for property damage and a $25,000 policy for each person’s bodily injuries.

In this case, if you get in an accident, the insurer would reimburse you for:

  • $25,000 worth of car repair bills
  • $25,000 worth of medical bills you personally incurred because of your accident-related injuries
  • $25,000 worth of medical bills your passenger incurred because of their accident-related injuries

The insurance limits depend on how much insurance the driver purchased. Drivers do not have to limit themselves to their state’s requirements: they can purchase as much as they want and can afford.

The higher the limits, the more the insurer can cover. For example, if a state’s minimum is $25,000 per injured person, and a driver buys a policy for $30,000 instead, that policy will cover a greater portion of the medical expenses resulting from a crash.

Filing a Car Accident Insurance Claim

Every insurance provider has their own process through which policyholders can report car accidents and request compensation.

Generally, this process involves:

  • Contacting the insurer, either through their website or over the phone
  • Providing as much information as you can about the accident—this includes where and when it happened, what injuries you suffered, how much you have already spent, and what kind of damage your car sustained
  • Waiting for the insurer to render a decision and decide whether or not they will cover your losses

While you can file a claim by yourself, it is generally better to consult with an attorney first. They can help you “polish” your claim, making it as strong as possible while preventing you from saying or doing anything to jeopardize your chance at fair compensation.

Providing Evidence for Your Claim

When you file a claim, the insurance company may not consider your word alone as strong enough evidence to justify paying out damages.

They may ask for:

  • Bills, especially car repair bills and medical bills
  • Photos that show your injuries or your damaged car
  • Medical records

A car accident lawyer can help you locate and submit these types of materials as well.

Hitting Insurance Limits

There are many reasons why your car accident damages could exceed the insurance limits.

For example, this could happen if:

  • You drove a very expensive car that sustained serious and extensive damage.
  • You suffered injuries that required extensive emergency treatment, including surgery and a stay in the hospital.
  • You suffered permanent injuries that will require long-term care.

You may worry that you will have to pay the excess out of pocket. This can be especially burdensome if your injuries prevent you from working or if your injuries have cost you your job and the health insurance that came with it.

Fortunately, depending on your state law, filing a claim with the insurance company isn’t the only way to recover compensation after an accident. The law also allows car accident survivors to sue the at-fault party.

Recovering Car Accident Damages From a Lawsuit

Depending on the state, if you have exceeded the insurance limits after a car accident, you can send a demand letter to the at-fault party and request further damages.

They could include compensation for:

  • Repair bills
  • Medical bills for past and future care
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of earnings
  • Disabilities

Common Wrongful Death Damages After a Car Accident

Suffering car accident injuries is hard enough.

If you lost a loved one in the accident, you could face:

  • The loss of your loved one’s earnings
  • The cost of burying your loved one and settling their estate
  • The bereavement that comes with losing someone you love, especially when they pass unexpectedly
  • The loss of your loved one’s companionship, which includes their expressions of affection and ability to comfort you or give advice

Many insurance policies will not cover these items. In that case, you can seek compensation for them and hold the liable party accountable by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

How to Bring a Lawsuit Against the Other Party?

To pursue compensation from the at-fault party:

  • Hire a lawyer: Letting an attorney represent you is a great way to learn about your rights and protect those rights from anyone else’s attempts to undermine them.
  • Find the liable party: It goes without saying that you cannot sue the liable party until you know their identity. A car accident attorney can investigate your accident and find out who bears the responsibility.
  • Quantify your injuries: You only get one chance to sue for damages, so you need to ensure that you ask for enough compensation to cover past, present, and future losses.
  • Send a demand letter: This letter will inform the liable party of your suit, how much you expect them to pay, and why you deserve the money.
  • Pursue compensation: Whether your lawyer negotiates a pretrial settlement or takes your case to court depends on factors specific to your case. You can rely on your attorney to choose the path that works best for you.

A Car Accident Attorney Can Help You With Your Case

Why bother to hire a personal injury lawyer?

  • The complexities of the law: Many different laws could apply to your case. Misinterpreting or forgetting even one of them could put your case at risk.
  • Your injuries: When you are in pain or preoccupied with ongoing treatment, it is all too easy to make critical mistakes that cost you compensation.
  • The insurer’s motives: Every insurance company wants to spend as little as possible, regardless of how much compensation you deserve.

A car accident attorney can tell you what happens when a car accident exceeds insurance limits and what you can do to push past those limits and get the money you need.

How to Find a Lawyer

Many law firms represent car accident survivors, but which one most suits your needs?

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How to Find a Lawyer?

Many law firms represent car accident survivors, but which one most suits your needs?

To hire the right firm:

  • Research multiple firms: Even if the first firm you find looks promising, do not stop researching. You can only know that you have found the best firm if you take the time to compare them to other similar firms.
  • Receive free case reviews: A lot of firms will listen to your story and let you know if and how they can help you all at no cost. You can receive multiple opinions from various firms.
  • Visit the firm in person: This gives you a chance to see if you get along with the lawyer, observe how they treat others, and ask questions about how they handle cases like yours.
  • Review their contract: The firm will require you to sign a contract before they get to work. Look over this contract carefully to make sure you understand it before you sign and do not sign if they do not give you time to read the contract.

Will the Insurance Accept Your Car Accident Claim?

Before you can receive any compensation from the insurer, you must wait for them to investigate your accident.

They may:

  • Assign an insurance adjuster to research your accident
  • Visit you at home or in the hospital to take your statement
  • Take photos of your car and ask if you have any photos of how the car looked prior to the collision
  • Talk to the other parties involved in the accident
  • Request copies of the police report and other evidence

Once the adjuster has all of the information they need, they will make a decision. Sometimes, they may accept your claim as-is and send you a check that covers everything you asked for. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why they might deny your claim.

For example, they might:

  • Decide that the damage to your car is unrelated to the accident
  • Decide that your injuries are unrelated to the accident
  • Claim you were not that badly injured and that some or all of the treatments you underwent were unnecessary
  • Claim you are partly or entirely to blame for the accident depending on where you live and what policy you have, this could influence how much compensation you receive

If you disagree with the insurance company’s conclusions, you can talk to a car accident attorney.

How to Talk to an Insurance Representative?

The insurance companies both yours and the liable party’s will waste no time in getting in touch with you after an accident. You may think this is a good thing, as it indicates they want to resolve the matter just as quickly as you do.

However, you should be wary of any insurance company representative, even when they represent your own insurer. 

hey do not want to pay you a penny more than they have to, and they may reduce their obligations by:

  • Offering an immediate settlement that seems fair but, in reality, does not cover all of your needs
  • Refusing to negotiate after making the initial offer
  • Implying or outright stating that you will never get a better offer, so you have no choice but to accept it or to do without any compensation

The best way to handle an insurance representative is to say as little as possible.

If they contact you:

  • Do not agree to give any statements regarding the accident, and especially do not agree to let them record your statement
  • Tell them you would like them to communicate with your lawyer from now on
  • Give them your lawyer’s contact information, or tell them you will provide this contact information once you have hired a lawyer
  • Tell your lawyer about the attempted communication if the contact was via email, you can forward the email to your lawyer
  • Do not respond to any further communications from the insurer if they make any more attempts to contact you
  • Tell your lawyer immediately if the insurer disregards your request by trying to talk to you directly

A good attorney will handle all communications with all other involved parties, including the insurance companies. They can update you whenever they hear from these parties and help you decide how to respond.

Recovering Car Accident Compensation Beyond Insurance Limits

Jeff Morris, Car Accident Attorney
Jeff Morris, Car Accident Attorney

A personal injury lawfirm can help you identify and take legal action against all of the liable parties involved in your car accident. This can help you cover all of your losses if your car accident exceeds insurance limits. Many law firms offer free case reviews so you can start learning more about what happens when you file an accident claim or lawsuit.

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