Absolutely. In an excess liability case you need an attorney to protect your rights. The insurer attorney will have to allow you to hire your own attorney just to protect your excess rights.
you can hire your own attorney if you feel that excess exposure beyond the policy limits exists. The insurance company, though you can try, never in my experience picks up this cost. Have a true conversation with the insurance lawyer about what the discovery looks like (medical bills and loss of wages, etc.)
I would suggest hiring your own attorney if they will not settle within your limits. Unless they can establish your daughter as your agent or succeed on a count of negligent entrustment, there will not be any personal liability against you. Also, ask your attorney what assets you have that could be at risk in the event of an excess judgment. Many states have laws that make it difficult to take marital property or homes to satisfy judgments.
Generally speaking, if you were not the driver and merely the owner, then liability exposure to you is fairly limited. See, California Vehicle Code, Section 17151 -- Link provided below.
HOWEVER, if there is evidence to suggest that you knew or should have known that the driver (your daughter) was either (A) incompetent or (B) unfit to drive your car, then you'll need to start considering possible exposure beyond policy limits. See, California Civil Jury instructions, No. 724 -- Link provided below.
- If you have an umbrella policy (also known as excess insurance), then you'll want to consider notifying your carrier.
- If you have concerns about personal assets, you may want to speak with an attorney about what assets are susceptible to collection from a civil judgment in these types of cases.
- Do NOT move assets to a 3rd party just to "hide" your assets from creditors. In California you can be liable for a cause of action of "Fraudulent Transfer," which can subject you to not only Compensatory Damages but also Punitive Damages.
This information is not legal advice, does not create an attorney-client relationship, and is intended for general informational purposes only. Said information is given in the context of California law.
Your insurance company has the affirmative duty to resolve the claim within policy limits. Once they do, they will obtain a full release of liability in your favor. However, if they fail to timely and affirmatively resolve the claim for policy limit, exposing you or your daughter to a judgment in excess of the policy, they may have acted in bad faith. In that case, you will need your own separate counsel. Ask your insurance company to take care of the claim, that is why you paid them a premium.
I have to disagree with most of my colleagues here. You may want to consult with an attorney who can explain things to your satisfaction, but hiring your own defense counsel in a situation like this is probably a waste of money. Unless there is some reason that you are vicariously liable for your daughter's negligence, your liability as an owner is limited to $15,000, and will be covered by insurance. So you have nothing to worry about.
Your daughter may be exposed to an excess judgment (a judgment for more than the policy limits), but you are generally not responsible for another person's debts. If she has substantial non-exempt assets (for example, if she has a net worth of several hundred thousand dollars exclusive of retirement accounts) then she needs to look at how to manage this potential liability. That may include retaining defense counsel or consulting with a bankruptcy lawyer. But if he assets are relatively limited, the plaintiff will likely settle for policy limits after establishing that collecting a judgment from her will be difficult or impossible.
LET THE INSURANCE COMPANY HANDLE THIS MATTER. THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL NOT SETTLE UNTIL THEY SECURE RELEASES FOR ALL CONCERNED. BEST OF LUCK.
This answer is provided by California Auto Accident Attorney Manuel A. Juarez, Esq., These answers are not intended to form an attorney client relationship. Manuel Juarez. Esq., is licensed only in California. He practices in Antioch, Berkeley, Concord, Oakland, Hayward, Martinez, Newark, Richmond, San Francisco and San Rafael. This information is good only in California and it is not to be taken as legal advice on car accidents, personal injury, divorce, bankruptcy or in any other type of situation. Esta respuesta es del Abogado de Accidentes de Autos, Abogado de Lesiones Personales, Abogado de Heridos en Accidentes de carros, Manuel A. Juárez, Abogado Hispano de Accidentes, Abogado de Divorcios, Abogado Latino de Accidentes, Abogado de Accidentes de Oakland, Hayward, San Francisco, California. Estas respuesta son solo para información general y no consisten en consejo legal sobre divorcios, mantención de esposas, mantención de hijos o bancarrotas. Las respuestas son comentarios legales que no forman una relación de abogado y cliente. Manuel Juarez, Esq., esta licenciado solo en el Estado de California. El abogado de lesiones y heridos en accidentes de autos, Manuel A. Juarez es licenciado solo en California.
Mr. Liao's response is right on the money. You should read it twice!
Your daughter however, has exposure beyond the policy limits. She should have a consultation with an independent lawyer; someone who hasn't been assigned to her by your insurance carrier. She should also have a consultation with a bankruptcy lawyer.
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