Can I Recover More than the Insurance Policy Limits?

On behalf of Gordon Law Offices, Ltd.   |  Feb 21, 2022   |  Personal Injury
Can I Recover More than the Insurance Policy Limits?

If a driver has been injured or experienced property damage by another driver and their insurance is not able to cover all the costs, he or she does not necessarily have to pay the remainder out of pocket. Car accidents are expensive and time-consuming for all drivers involved. Around 6 million car accidents occur each year in the United States, causing an average of $78,900 dollars in medical expenses. Accidents that only have property damage average around $8,900 dollars. This does not take into account any loss of work and wages due to the accident and time of repair and recovery. The type of insurance policy the at-fault driver has and the limits that are set by that policy determine the amount that his or her insurance will pay for both medical and property damage claims. Sometimes these limits are for less than what the accident will cost the driver that was hit or injured. If an insurance policy is not going to cover all the entirety of damages, then it will be harder for the driver to obtain all of that money. However, it is not impossible, depending on what strategy the driver decides to use during the recovery process. 

How to Recover More than the Insurance Policy Limits After a Car Accident

Every insurance policy has a maximum amount that the insurance company has agreed to pay if an accident occurs and damages are owed for both medical and property damage. Although going through the at-fault driver’s car insurance company is the most direct way to get accident costs resolved, sometimes it is not the only solution if the total damages are more than what is covered through that insurance policy. When this happens, the at-fault driver will be left to pay for it personally. Under these circumstances, the driver that has been hit can:

  • Take the at-fault driver or drivers to court and be awarded damages so that the court system can help collect any remaining money owed through garnishments or property liens.
  • Investigate all insurance policies that can be used to cover the damages, including multiple drivers involved in the accident.
  • Discover if the at-fault driver has an Umbrella policy along with their primary insurance that may be used for the claim as well.
  • Look to see if any UIM (Underinsured Motorists) coverage can be applied to remaining costs that exceed the liability limit.

Discovering what type of insurance the other driver(s) had when the accident occurred is some of the most important information for all involved parties to obtain. Knowing what kind of liability insurance or other policies are in place allows the affected driver to plan the easiest way to pay for repairs or any injuries that may have taken place during the accident. If the accident caused death, then it is essential to know what the insurance policy will cover in burial costs to help the victim’s family, if at all. 

Suing Multiple Defendants

In some cases, more than one driver, or company, may be at fault for an accident. If this happens, all parties that are found to be at fault can be held liable for the total damage jointly. This means that if one driver’s liability policy does not cover the entirety of the costs for the damages, then the other driver’s policy can pay for the remaining amount. Knowing how insurance works in Illinois is important when navigating a claim, especially if more than one driver is involved in an accident and found to be at fault. Even though the court may agree with the driver that has been hit, that does not always mean that the claim will be paid promptly. When only one policy is covering the damages, it is less likely that the defendant’s insurance will be able to cover all the costs that he or she is found responsible for paying due to the maximum limits that insurance companies set. When more than one policy is being used with potentially different limits for both medical or property damage, the additional coverage can help cover the total amount of the claim for the affected driver, although it may take longer than when only one insurance company is involved.

Using an Umbrella Policy to Recover More than the Insurance Policy Limits After a Car Accident

An Umbrella policy is an additional policy that the insured driver might have that will help to cover costs alongside the primary insurance policy that he or she carries. Although, it is more common for businesses or corporations to have umbrella policies than drivers that carry car insurance for their car(s). An umbrella policy might cover costs if they exceed the liability limit that is on the primary policy. If the primary insurance policy has a liability ceiling of $50,000 in damages, but the claim was for a larger amount than the driver’s or company’s insurance policy, an umbrella policy would then be able to cover the difference. This can help pay in full some claims to avoid prolonging the experience for both drivers involved. Although umbrella policies may help to cover the difference of claims, they may not be able to pay them in full, depending on how expensive the claim is, as umbrella policies also set limits. This is only one of the reasons why auto insurance is so important for drivers to not only carry but also to understand how their policy works when an accident occurs. If a driver has been hit by a company-owned vehicle, it is essential for them to ask about any umbrella policies that might be in place during the claim process, as the driver of the company vehicle may not know the full extent of the company insurance policy.

Using UIM Coverage when Insurance Policy Limits Are Too Low

Underinsured Motorists (UIM) coverage can help a driver that has been hit pay for medical expenses if the at-fault driver has inadequate insurance to cover the damages. Most states require all drivers to carry liability insurance that can at least cover what is considered the minimum amount, and the state of Illinois is one of them. These minimum amounts could only cover up to $25,000 for medical costs and $20,000 for property damages. A UIM policy that the driver that has been hit carries can be used when the driver that hit them:

  • Has insurance, unlike (UM) Uninsured Motorists coverage, but his or her liability limit is set too low to cover all the costs that occurred during the accident. 
  • Does not have any liability policies for the driver driving at the time the accident occurred.
  • Has insurance that has denied covering the claim for a vials reason and not in bad faith.
  • Has an insurance company that has gone out of business and is not able to process any claim.

Besides medical expenses, UIM can also cover lost wages, pain and suffering, and even funeral expenses in the case of a wrongful death accident. Property damage is usually not covered in a UIM policy, although in some states it might be eligible for some coverage. A UIM coverage policy might be one possible way for a driver to recover damages when the at-fault driver’s insurance will not cover all the costs of the claim and the driver is not able to cover the difference personally. Even if a court has ordered the driver to pay, the driver may not have a job that can be garnished or personal property that can have a lien placed upon it, which leaves the victim to pay out any remaining costs out of his or her own pocket.