I was involved in a car accident in which I was found 60% at fault and the other driver was 40% at fault. The other driver has accrued nearly $ 60,000 in what I believe to be exaggerated lost wages. My insurance policy limit is $15,000. My insurance company has informed me that I will be responsible for the remainder above $15,000. Further, I have just received a divorce settlement from my wife and currently have over $300,000 in cash sitting in my bank account.
Is there any way I can legally protect my bank account from being used to pay the claims of the other driver if or when he sues me for the remainder of his damages which was not paid by my insurance company? Would establishing a revocable or irrevocable trust be of any benefit? What are my legal options?
Since you express a concern to protect your assets, you really should pay for a consultation with a lawyer. This is not something you should try on your own - a skilled lawyer will set aside your attempts as a fraudulent conveyance. Since you now have this much cash, you should also call up your insurance agent or broker and see about raising your insurance limits.
I think the thing to be learned here is sufficient insurance coverage. You will likely need personal counsel to defend you for your liability for damages above your small policy limits. Any attempts you make at this point after the claim has been active to shift or hide assets could be determined fraudulent and set aside. Consult with a local experienced attorney in this area, or consider making a reasonable offer to settle above the policy limits with the help of your insurer.
The civil justice system would be meaningless if defendants could simply shield their assets to prevent collection on a judgment. There are ways to make collection more difficult, sure, but keep in mind that interest will accrue on the outstanding judgment until it is paid. Your LICENSE can also be suspended until the judgment is paid. Sorry, but there is no easy way out. Good luck.
The only way to protect the money would likely involve a fraud, which you should want no part of. You are not clear about the claim against you. Was there a trial or arbitration which resulted in the apportionment of liability? Is there going to be a trial or arbitration on the issue of damages? Has the insurance company tendered their policy limits? Has the plaintiff rejected them? Depending on the answers to these questions I would recommend hiring your own attorney who could negotiate a settlement that may only be slightly more than the $15K policy.
You clearly have means to retain counsel. You indicate you have not yet been sued, but anticipate you might. with respect, why are you fussing around on an internet forum instead of sitting across from counsel signing your representation agreement? Or would you prefer to just wait for a summons and then try to deal with all your various possibilities after there are orders in place limiting what you may do?
Delay in hiring counsel is not your friend, not in the least.
I suggest that you visit with an asset protection attorney ASAP.
You should encourage your auto insurance company to settle the matter within your meager policy limit if possible. Obviously you know that you are very seriously underinsured in this day and age. Hopefully you have sat down with an insurance broker and have determined an appropriate level of coverage to protect you and your family from future problems.
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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.
If you were liable you should pay your dues. You were at fault so pay your portion and signed a FULL release of all claims to protect yourself. Next time get a higher insurance coverage. How much was the injury? I doubt that it's so high that you can not pay a few more hundreds to get it settled. You sound like you have money and probably can't file bankruptcy. If you have the means to pay for your share then you should pay. It's only right to do so because if someone hit you, you would want to get compensated too. Sounds like you just don't want to pay. Do the right thing...integrity. Also, lesson learned, next time get higher insurance...it only cost a few more bucks or so. It's worth it.
If you do not like how your insurance defend you then you should seek/hire a private attorney. Good-luck!!!
ho determined the apportionment of fault? Can it be challenged? I agree with what others have said and always advise people it's better to overinsure rather than do the state minimum, especially where they have asets such as you do. Based on the apportionment of fault, assuming its validity, it would seem you're on the hook for $27,000.00. If it were me, I would scrutinize the LOE documents and then work with adjuster in a proactive manner and offer an additional sum of 15,000.00 or so, meaning the adjuster offers them $30.000.00 for full compromise and release of all claims.They're likely to bite on this one and you'll save $12,000.00. People tend to ask for more than they expect to receive, just as in any negotiation.
Any attempt to try and hide your assets will prove futile and perhaps even costly, so I agree with what has been said already and recommend you NOT attempt to do so.
Best of luck,
Patrick M. Buchanan
Attorney at Law
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