I pulled out in front of a motorcycle at a low rate of speed for both of us. He hit my car and ended up breaking his wrist. There is a high liklihood he will sue me for above my policy limits of 100 grand. He has roughly 50 thousand in medical bills and retained an attorney. My question is if he does take me to court can a fight the jugement he is trying to get? Can they garnish my wages? Whats my best recourse? Please help...
Car / Auto Accident Lawyer
If the driver chooses to sue you for his injuries, according to the terms of your policy, your insurance company will provide you with an attorney and defend on your behalf. Cooperate with your insurance company. If the drivers medical bills are really 50k, your insurance company and the driver will likely settle for your policy limits.
Your insurance company will provide a lawyer to defend you. It sounds like you have adequate coverage.
I advise all my clients to get an umbrella policy for a marginal amount so you aren't in this position again.
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Personal Injury Lawyer
If he has incurred $50,000.00 in medical bills, and your liability limits are $100,000, he may very well sue you for an excess judgment. His lawyer will have to decide whether that is worth it or not. If you have few or no assets, then there will be little incentive to do that if your company offers the limits of your policy to settle (in exchange for a complete release of liability on your part). However, if the guy has "underinsured motorists coverage" ("UIM") under his own policy with limits greater than your $100,000 liability limits, or if he believes you have assets or a high paying job with wages to garnish, then he may very well elect to file suit. In order to claim UIM coverage, he has to prove to his own insurer that his claim exceeds your limits, and that your limits have been paid in full or tendered. The problem is, his UIM insurer will not want to pay if he releases you from liability, because the UIM insurer is going to want the right to file a subrogation claim against you for whatever amounts they pay him in UIM coverage. In that event, even if your insurer wants to settle, it can't if you are exposed to an excess judgment or subrogation claim, unless the other side is willing to waive that excess claim against you. You see, it can get complicated.
There is also another potential problem that you must guard against. While it is true that your insurer will hire a lawyer to defend you at trial, you have to understand that it is your insurance company paying and providing the instructions to the lawyer regarding settlement, as well as deciding whether to try and settle before suit is filed and a lawyer becomes necessary. If your insurer knows it has to pay the limits to settle, but thinks it has an outside chance of a lower verdict or even a finding of no liability (based upon a contributory negligence theory, etc.), then your insurer may actually turn down an opportunity to settle this claim within your policy limits in exchange for a release of liability, on the grounds that they have to pay the limits anyway, so what have they go to lose by going to trial? Whether they settle for $100,000 or the guy gets a $500,000 judgment against you, they only pay the limits of $100,000. Get the picture? They've got nothing to lose by going to trial, but YOU LOSE BIG if your insurer rolls the dice at trial and a big verdict gets handed down against you.
In the circumstances you describe, it is well worth a couple hours of legal fees to hire your own lawyer, to send a very clear directive to your insurance adjuster and any lawyer hired for you by your insurance company, to make every possible effort to settle the case within your policy limits. What that does is set the stage for a possible claim by you against your insurer (and a malpractice case against the insurer's hired attorney, who is supposed to represent you) for bad faith refusal to settle, if they DO NOT diligently and in good faith try to settle the case so as to eliminate the possibility of an excess judgment against you. It is amazing how many times I have seen cases magically settle following such a letter, when before that letter the insurer was all gung ho to take a case to court and risk a massive judgment against their insured.
It is conceivable, of course, that after all best efforts, settlement is impossible, and an excess judgment is entered against you., In that event, depending upon the amount of the excess judgment, your assets, etc. filing for bankruptcy may be the one option that clears the debt from you personally; however, you should wait to consider that option until all else has failed.