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Can someone with insurance coverage be sued personally in an at fault auto accident ?

Jacksonville, FL |

my fiance' was in a fender bender in stop and go traffic and bumped the rear end of a vehicle in florida. there was no visible property damage to either vehicle, however state troopers estimated damage at $500 or less, the victims were able to claim for $5,000 property damage with the insurance company. one year later, they are suing again for medical expenses and physical therapy for more than $25,000. the insurance company suggested we get a private attorney, is this necessary?

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Attorney answers 2


For accidents occurring in Florida, the injured party has 4 years within which to sue you for damages. I doubt that the adverse party is "suing again", but rather has brought forth a claim against your insurance for their bodily injuries. (When you are "sued" it is necessary for the plaintiff to bring all of their claims at the same time against you. What probably happened is that the property damage "claim" was settled shortly after the accident without the need to bring suit. If you, in fact, have now been sued for the bodily injury claim, you would have been served with a copy of the complaint and a summons. If that has not happened to you, the insurance company has probably just received an additional "claim" for the bodily injuries.)

If you have insufficient insurance, meaning that the claim against you exceeds your coverage, that is when the insurance carrier will usually instruct you to get your own counsel. Many times a conflict can develop between the insurance carrier and you, the insured. In Florida, a plaintiff is not permitted to join an insurance carrier in any automobile liability suit. The suit must be filed against the individual insured.

If the claim against you exceeds your coverage, you may be well advised to obtain an opinion and representation from your own counsel. Your attorney can then place pressure on the insurance company to attempt to resolve the claim within your policy limits. If your insurance company does not settle the claim within your policy limits and the case proceeds to trial, you well could be stuck with a judgment which exceeds your policy limits and you would be personally liable to pay this amount to the plaintiffs. You did not state what your policy limit is, but in this day and age, most people should be carrying a minimum of $100,000 worth of coverage.

The sooner you consult with an attorney concerning this matter, the better off you will be.


As a Florida personal injury practitioner, let me add a little to Mr. Lundeen's excellent reply.

If an auto insurer fails to attempt in good faith to settle a claim against its insured within the limits of the policy when, under all the circumstances, it could have and should have done so had it acted fairly and honestly toward its insured and with due regard for her or his interests, then that insurer may have acted in bad faith in breach of the insurance contract.

Applying this rule to your fiancee's facts: let's say that your fiancee has $25,000 in Bodily Injury (BI) policy limits; and the settlement demand from the injured party is for $25,000. If the insurer pays the limits, it can get a release for your fiancee; and this whole thing goes away. But, if the claim is worth $25,000 or more, and the insurer tries to play games and save itself a buck or two, the injured party does not have to accept that lowball settlement. The injured party could file suit and take this claim all the way through a verdict and final judgment. If the final judgment is for more than the $25,000 that the injured party would have originally accepted to walk away, then your fiancee would be on the hook for that excess judgment amount. However, since the insurer may have acted in bad faith in failing to protect its own customer, then your fiancee may have grounds to hire an attorney (selected by the plaintiff's attorney preferably) to sue the insurer to get that excess judgment amount to satisfy that judgment.

This is a brief bit of info on Florida insurance bad faith claims. I don't have enough info to really offer specific legal advice. Your fiancee should contact a local attorney to discuss this situation in detail. I just hope that my thoughts above can help you and your fiancee size up your situation a little bit better.

Dennis Phillips
Florida personal injury