Each case is different, based on the facts, the jurisdiction, and the law, so you should generally be very wary of comparing two different cases without taking into account these other factors. I would suggest that you ask your attorney to sit down with you and answer your questions.
Generally speaking, the amount that you may recover in a case may be limited (like it appears to be in your case) by the amount of collectible insurance available to cover the injuries. In some circumstances, you might be able to forego a settlement for the limits of insurance, if there were assets that the at fault party had from which you might be able to collect a judgment, but this is very difficult to do, and is only really an option after thoughtful reflection, research, investigation, and, of course, advice from a competent attorney.
The opinions expressed in this answer are meant for educational and public service purposes. Requesting general information about the law on a public website should never be a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney who can give specific legal advice tailored to the facts of an individual case. Please be aware that Robert Hogan is licensed only in Texas and New Mexico, and that any opinions given are not meant to apply outside of these states. No attorney-client relationship is intended by answering questions or emails.
I agree with the previous attorney's response. Each case is unique and it is impossible to determine the unique facts of your case based on your posting alone. Notwithstanding the above, and generally speaking, if all insurance coverage has been exhausted, your only other option would be to file a lawsuit in lieu of settling your case to obtain an excess verdict against the Defendant. In certain limited circumstances, you may be able to obtain a verdict in excess of the available insurance policy and collect against any assets the Defendant has. Additionally, sometimes insurance companies are willing to pay amounts in excess of the Defendant's insurance coverage when an excess verdict has been granted by the court, if the insurance company has acted in bad faith.
Legal disclaimer: *The information here is for educational purposes only and should not be relied upon without first consulting with an experienced attorney. The information given may not apply to your individual situation and should not be construed as legal advice. Laws, regulation and procedure change frequently. This information should not be relied upon as legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. Please note that this site is open to the public and any information posted by readers can be viewed by government officials.
The above attorneys are both correct.
People often see 'huge' judgments scroll across their television screen when an attorney commercial is playing.
That said, a fact finder's determination and a payout are two entirely different creatures; just because it was determined someone's damages are, say, $1.00 million, it doesn't mean they will ever see anywhere near that from the person who was 100% at fault for the accident, but who does not have many assets and who only carries a low-value insurance policy.
Ask to see the policy limits if you would like; this should put your mind to rest that your attorney has obtained the max. as under the policy.
I would add this to all the fine answers provided: the value of a claim means one thing to an insurance adjuster trying to settle a claim by the injured party (they want to pay as little as possible); another to the injured party (they think they deserved $300,000); and yet another thing to a jury (they may award $100,000 or some other number). The problem is, if the limit of the available insurance policies is $25,000.00, it really doesn't matter what the claim is really worth if everyone acknowledges it is worth more than the $25,000.00, because there's still only $25,000.00 in coverage. The party responsible for the injury is personally liable for the entire value of the claim (whatever the jury ultimately awards), but his contractual arrangement with his insurance company only obligates the insurance company to pay the dollar limits he paid for. Therefore, if you took the case to a jury trial, and were awarded $100,000.00, the at-fault party's insurer would pay you the $25,000.00 policy limits and be done with you. Then, you would have to try to attach the wages or property of the at-fault driver to get the rest. That's a very uncertain prospect, and in most such cases, the at-fault driver has little in the way of assets of income to justify trying to collect, or more likely, will file bankruptcy and discharge the debt, leaving you with nothing. Typically, people who purchase the minimum insurance liability limits required by law don't have the money, assets or means to pay any excess judgment, or to afford the higher premiums for more coverage. You can protect yourself from such circumstances by purchasing higher limits under you own policy, for uninsured/underinsured coverage, which pays you the difference between what the at-fault party's limits are and what your UIM limits are. In your case, both you and the at-fault party purchased the minimum, leaving you both woefully uninsured for this loss. The costs of going to trial before a jury to recover more than $30,000.00 include the cost of having your treating medical physician testify as to the reasonableness and necessity of your medical treatment and bills, economic loss expert fees for future lost income, plus court reporter costs for depositions of witnesses and opposing experts, etc. These costs could add up to $5,000.00, $10,000.00 or more, depending on the complexity of the injuries. These costs are ultimately yours to pay, and need to be paid up front (before trial). To go through all of that, incur all those costs, and then only be able to recover the $25,000.00 liability limit (with an uncollectable judgment balance) would make that option a much worse result than just taking the money now and saving the litigation costs. Your lawyer is providing you with sound advice, albeit not what you would like to hear.
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