what happens when car accident claim exceeds insurance limits?

Being involved in an auto accident on California roadways can be devastating. 

Many people suffer property damage to their vehicle that must be repaired, costing a great deal of money. And in more severe cases, auto accident victims may suffer personal injuries that can result in thousands of dollars in medical expenses, countless hours in recovery, and mental anguish in the aftermath.

Fortunately, insurance policies often provide a potential avenue to recover financial compensation. However, the auto insurance process is by no means a perfect system.

In fact, it is not at all uncommon for the amount of damages resulting from an auto accident to exceed the applicable policy limits. 

So, what do you do if this happens to you? And exactly how often do auto accident settlements exceed policy limits in California? 

Use our guide below to learn more about auto accident settlements in California. When you have questions about how to navigate your car accident claim, the California personal injury attorneys at Saeedian Law Group will be standing by and ready to help. 

California Auto Insurance Requirements: An Overview

As a general rule, all motorists on California roadways must carry liability insurance coverage. This liability coverage helps you pay for property damage and injuries to others in an auto accident wherein you are at fault. 

The minimum coverage limits are as follows: 

  • $15,000 for the death or injury of any one person; 
  • $30,000 for the death or injury of more than one person in any one accident; and 
  • $5,000 for property damage. 

You may, of course, purchase higher coverage limits. And in fact, many people choose to do so. However, these are the minimum coverage limits currently required by California law.  

What Happens When a Car Accident Claim Exceeds Insurance Limits?

You might be wondering what happens when a car accident claim exceeds insurance limits. If so, you are not alone. 

A policy “limit” is just that—a limit on coverage. Essentially, if someone is at fault for causing an auto accident, the insurer will be required to pay out only up to the coverage limit. This is unfortunately true even where the actual expenses incurred by the accident victim far exceed the insurance policy limits. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you must settle for the amount of the policy limit and nothing more. If the policy limit doesn’t cover all of your expenses arising out of an auto accident, you may also be able to sue any at-fault individuals personally in court.  

What Happens If Someone Sues You for More Than Your Insurance Covers? 

If someone sues you for more than the amount of your insurance policy limit, it’s important to stay calm and seek legal counsel. There may be a number of legal defenses available to help reduce the amount you owe personally. 

Additionally, the rule of comparative negligence applies to liability in California car injury claims. This means that each party is only liable for damages in proportion to their percentage of fault. For instance, suppose Joe injures Jack in a car crash that resulted in $100,000 of damages for Jack. However, Jack is found to be 40% at fault for the crash and for his own injuries. This would mean that Joe is liable for only $60,000—not the entire $100,000 in damages.  

So, How Often Do Auto Accident Settlements Exceed the Policy Limits? 

In short, it depends.

When negotiations are with an opposing party’s insurer, settlements do not exceed policy limits very often. This is because, in most cases, the insurance company simply will not have any legal obligation to pay out more than the coverage limits under the policy.    

However, if you decide to pursue a legal claim against one or more parties who caused your injuries, chances are greater that a potential settlement could exceed any single defendant’s applicable policy limits. For instance, suppose Joe, Jack, and Jerry all contributed to your injuries, and each only has $30,000 in coverage. Further, suppose that your injuries total $90,000. If you make a successful claim against each defendant, you could feasibly recover 100% of your damages by adding all three insurance limits together.

What Damages Can I Recover?

In most cases, you can pursue a legal claim for damages to help compensate for: 

  • Hospital bills, 
  • Rehabilitation costs, 
  • Prescription medications,
  • Lost wages, 
  • Loss in earning capacity, and 
  • Pain and suffering. 

Recovering in the aftermath of a California auto accident can be costly. And in many cases, your actual expenses may very well exceed the applicable insurance policy limits. 

If you’re not sure what damages you may be entitled to recover, contact an attorney today. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you assess your potential damages and fight for your rights moving forward.  

How a California Auto Accident Attorney Can Help

Navigating an auto accident personal injury claim can be stressful and time-consuming. It can be difficult knowing where to begin if you are unfamiliar with the complexities of the law. Thus, in many situations, it can be extremely advantageous to hire legal counsel to help you pursue your claims. 

A well-versed auto accident attorney can help you: 

  • Gather evidence to help you support your case; 
  • Assess your claims and determine your potential damages and liability; 
  • Negotiate potential settlements with opposing parties and their insurers and legal counsel; and
  • Pursue a lawsuit when settlement offers, or policy limits are insufficient to cover your applicable damages. 

Being involved in an auto accident can turn your world upside down. When you’re not sure how to move forward, contact a personal injury attorney to help. 

Contact the Personal Injury Attorneys at Saeedian Law Group Today

At Saeedian Law Group, we pride ourselves on providing fearless advocacy and personalized solutions for each and every one of our clients. We recognize that no two cases are ever the same and that each case deserves individual attention and personalized care. When you hire our team, that’s precisely what you’ll get. 

Saeedian Law Group has a strong record of success, recovering millions of dollars in both verdicts and settlements for our clients. Nevertheless, we know that choosing a law firm for your case is never an easy decision. That’s why we offer free consultations, and we will never charge you anything unless and until we are able to recover for you. 

Ready to discuss your case? Contact us today for your free consultation and see how Saeedian Law Group can help you. 

Author Photo

Michael Saeedian founded Saeedian Law Group in 2009 with the goal of providing injured individuals and their loved ones with caring, personalized, and attentive legal representation. An accomplished Beverly Hills attorney, Michael Saeedian represents clients in all types of personal injury and wrongful death matters, including car accidentstruck accidentsproducts liabilitypremises liabilityUber and Lyft accidentsdog bitespedestrian accidentsassault and battery incidents, and more. No matter how tough or complex your situation may be, Attorney Michael Saeedian will take the time to understand your unique needs and goals and develop a tailored legal strategy aimed at securing the maximum possible compensation in your case.

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