How Often do Auto Accident Settlements Exceed the Policy Limits?
Virginia law requires its drivers to purchase a certain amount of liability insurance. This coverage, known as minimum liability coverage, provides you with the baseline protection you need to pay for roadway damage. Another driver’s minimum liability coverage subsequently helps you with your losses if you get into an accident.
That said, severe accidents may need more coverage than a defendant has. As a result, that person’s policy may limit what kind of settlement you can request in the face of significant losses. If your damages exceed the policy limits, you have other options to pursue compensation.
What Are Insurance Policy Limits?
Drivers in Virginia must carry at least the state’s minimum liability coverage. According to the DMV, required insurance coverage includes:
- $25,000 of bodily injury protection per person
- $50,000 of bodily injury protection per accident
- $20,000 of property damage protection per accident
- $25,000 of uninsured motorist bodily injury protection per person
- $50,000 of uninsured motorist bodily injury protection per accident
Because this coverage is state-mandated, it’s often easiest to think about those numbers as essentials, not caps. If you get into a car accident in Virginia, though, those limits cap the amount of money that an insurance provider is required to pay you. This is the “full coverage” myth of auto insurance.
These limits will differ from person to person. A driver with umbrella coverage may have a higher policy limit than a driver operating on minimum coverage. You’ll need to know what a person’s policy limits are if you want to hold them liable for your losses, though. It can be difficult to get comprehensive accident compensation if you’re confined by someone’s minimal policy.
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Will a Settlement Offer Exceed Your Policy Limits?
There are circumstances in which your requested compensation may exceed a defendant’s policy limits. For example, traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, or accidents involving larger vehicles can all leave you with seemingly-insurmountable expenses on your plate.
In turn, your requested compensation may rapidly outstrip someone else’s minimum liability insurance. You do not have to curb your requested compensation to fit in with someone else’s coverage, though.
When you sit down with an attorney after your auto accident, estimate your desired compensation in total. If you know what kind of insurance policy the liable party has, you can request compensation through that party’s insurance provider. You can then make up the rest through other means, provided that your situation allows for the pursuit of additional support.
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What Happens When a Settlement Exceeds Your Policy Limits?
If a settlement offer exceeds a defendant’s policy limits, you can receive the maximum amount of compensation available to you through that driver’s coverage. This is often how underinsured cases resolve unless you pursue additional means of compensation. These limitations can be frustrating to deal with if other legal options seem out of your reach.
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When Can You Collect Above-Limit Damages?
There are means through which you can collect above-limit damages if you face substantial auto accident costs. Your quest for financial support after an accident may benefit from:
Extended Umbrella Policy Limits
It’s rare, but not uncommon, for an independent party to carry an umbrella insurance policy. If you get into an accident with a commercial vehicle, however, the party liable for your losses may have more coverage than you anticipate.
In these cases, you can ask the liable party what kind of coverage they have shortly after your accident. While most insurers will first deplete that party’s minimum liability coverage, you can trust that your other expenses should be covered by the defendant’s broader coverage.
Multiple Liable Parties
Naming multiple parties liable for an auto accident can be tricky in Virginia. If more than one institution or person contributed to your losses, though, you can work with either your insurer or an attorney to request compensation from both individuals. We’ll work with you to understand how Virginia’s pure contributory fault, Code of Virginia §8.01-58, laws play into your request.
Assessing an Insurance Claim for Bad Faith Policy Limits
Depending on the nature of your auto accident, a defendant’s insurer may attempt to deny that person’s claim to avoid paying for your losses. While the insurer may cite seemingly-reasonable reasons for doing so, there’s a chance that the company may be acting in bad faith.
If you think that an insurance company’s reticence is limiting the funds you have for recovery, you can take your concerns up with a Virginia judge. Both a judge and jury can assess the reasoning behind an insurer’s claim denial. In turn, these parties may require that insurer to provide you with damages that exceed the original defendant’s policy limits.
Filing a Civil Suit
Finally, you always have the option to pursue a civil suit against a party you believe to be liable for your losses. You’ll have to contend with Virginia’s pure contributory negligence law, but if you can prove total fault, you can fight for financial support.
An attorney can guide you through the process of filing a legal complaint, issuing your demands, and either negotiating for coverage or going to trial. What’s more, you can rely on an attorney to do most of the heavy lifting of a case for you, effectively giving yourself more time to recover from your accident.
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When Should You Reach Out to an Attorney?
If you find yourself unsure as to how to move forward when faced with a settlement, you don’t have to hash out the specifics on your own. You can turn to an attorney, instead. Car accident attorneys throughout Virginia can assess the policy limits of your insurance and help you get as much financial support as is viably possible.
When you turn to the team with Christina Pendleton & Associates, we’ll do our best to take the stress of car accident negotiations off of your shoulders. We’ll communicate with your insurer on your behalf and keep conversations with a liable party civil.
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