At the scene I was determined to be at fault. I have $25K worth of bodily injury coverage & $25K of property coverage. If damages exceed this amount, what happens to me. Will I be sued? Even if they have underinsured motorist coverage can I be sued? Do I need to get a lawyer or will my insurance company provide one? In the event I am sued and a judgement is made against me, can filing bankruptcy protect me?
Whether you get sued depends on several factors, some of which are: the total damages and total insurance coverage in the case, whether the insurance company or companies offer enough to settle, and whether the injured person wishes to go after your assets. You had the minimum liability limits allowable in SC, which is never a good idea. I suggest that everyone carry at least $100,000 in liability, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. The additional cost for the extra coverage is surprisingly low. If the injured person's damages exceed the available liability and UIM coverage, then he/she will have to decide whether to accept the available insurance coverage or file suit to attempt to obtain an "excess judgment" above the insurance coverage amount. If an excess judgment is obtained, then your assets that are not exempted by statute would be used to satisfy the amount over the available insurance coverage.
If suit if filed, your insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent you and your insurance company. You may also be entitled to a personal lawyer (at your ins co's expense) if you want to settle the claim for your $25K limits and your ins co refuses to pay it. If this situation arises, and the injured party obtains an excess judgment, your insurance company may be on the hook for the excess amount if the injured party offered to settle for your policy limits and your insurance co. refused to pay it. If suit is filed, ask your lawyer about this.
Since I am not a bankruptcy attorney, I suggest that you consult a B/R attorney about that question.
As I am not licensed in your state, I can only provide you with some general guidance. If the damages exceed your coverage and the other party has uninsured motorist coverage, what I have done as plaintiff's attorney is sue both the adverse driver and the plaintiff's uninsured motorist insurance carrier in the same suit, thereby saving the costs of pursuing 2 separate actions. Your liability insurance carrier, of course, has an obligation to defend you in such an action. This type of situation arises if your liability carrier refuses to pay your policy limits or, the plaintiff's uninsured motorist carrier refuses to allow us to settle with the adverse driver because they suspect the driver may have some assets.
If you were hit with an excess judgment, bankruptcy is a possible solution for you, but I would not get too concerned at this juncture. You should write a letter to your insurance carrier and urge them to settle the claim against you within your policy limits so as not to expose you to an excess judgment.
In my opinion, you are seriously underinsured with only $25,000 worth of liability insurance. In this day and age, if you put another person in the hospital for a week, you easily can have medical bills in excess of $100,000 claimed against you, not to mention the pain and suffering, lost earnings and other elements of damages which the injured victim may be able to prove against you.
Report this to your insurer immediately. If you have a standard insurance agreement a defense attorney will be assigned to defend should you be sued. You also may wish to affiliate with your own attorney should you believe that the injury damages for which you may be held liable exceed the limits of the insurance policy you purchased.
You can be sued in an attempt to show that your conduct was the negligent cause of the injury and property damages.
There are many types of personal injuries for which financial damages can be awarded, including physical, emotional, and psychological injuries.