I was in an accident last April. I rear ended a car and that car hit a truck in front of it. Everyone drove off, with my insurance settling repairs in a month.
The people in the car has settled not too long after that. My insurance hasn't paid out to the person in the truck because he was asking for a lot more money (time off work, all chiropractor expenses that he was already seeing before the accident) without providing much documentation and he has been hard to contact (according to what details I can get from my insurance).
Now he has a lawyer and my insurance is asking if I should disclose limits to them or not. I'm concerned that they'll try to pile on everything blaming me for a preexisting condition even though he's back at work etc. since I have higher limits.
It is in your interest to disclose your policy limits. Your insurance company is obligated to attempt to settle the claim within the policy limits to protect you from an excess judgment. Disclosure of the policy limits does not mean that your insurance company will pay the limits to settle the claim but it may prevent you from being sued. If the policy limits are not disclosed to the claimant's attorney, he or she will need to file a lawsuit against you. Once the lawsuit is filed, you must disclose the limits and provide a copy of the policy. You may be able to protect yourself from a lawsuit by disclosing your limits.
Whether or not your insurance company is required to disclose coverage(s) is generally governed by state law. If you are served with a lawsuit immediately contact your insurance carrier as in every state of the Union, insurance companies are required to hire attorneys to defend their policyholders. Clarify with your insurance company as to their recommendation; moreover you should also consult with a local attorney.
Keep in mind that most if not all of the attorneys who answer questions on this web site represent plaintiffs, so our answers will be influenced by our background. Also, focus on the answers from California lawyers - out of state attorneys will not be familiar with our laws. All that said, as my colleague Mr. Sjaarda has already noted, if you don't disclose your policy limits now, a good plaintiff's lawyer will simply file a lawsuit to find out, because disclosure of the available insurance limits is one of the first things that will have to be provided. Your insurance company might be hoping that the plaintiff's lawyer is not serious about filing a case, and it does not want to encourage him or her to pursue a questionable claim, and that might be a valid strategy, but you should ask them about the attorney, and perhaps find out a little bit more about that attorney's background and strategy. I, for one, take a refusal to disclose policy limits as an invitation to file the lawsuit.
If at any point you feel that your insurance company is putting its interests ahead of yours, consult a local business attorney with background in litigation, to advise you separately.
I would recommend disclosing your policy limits. Many states, such as Florida and Vermont, require disclosure by statute. Refusing to disclose may only encourage the plaintiff to file suit against you. One of the first questions that you will be required to answer and and one of the first documents you will be required to produce in discovery are certified copies of your insurance policy and a declaration, under oath, of the amount of your coverage. This occurs after you have forced the plaintiff to sue you to obtain the information he now seeks and now you will be engaged in full-scale discovery and litigation. It is better to try and resolve the claim without putting you through the lengthy litigation process. Disclosing your limits does not change the extent of the claimant's injuries. Those injuries can be and will be disputed by your insurance carrier.
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
The injured party is going to get it one way or the other. I'm from the school it is fine to give the other side what they'll get down the road any way. The case is worth what it's worth no matter how big or small your policy is. Ask your insurance company and/or lawyer what the pros and cons of doing so.
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