How to Settle Your Case for More than the Policy Limit
People commonly ask if it’s possible to settle their case for more than the defendant’s insurance policy limits. We’ve had a great number of callers ask us this question when their current attorney tells them no more coverage is available.
Generally, it is true that you can only recover the amount of the policy limit. However, this recent settlement of ours is a good example of how an insurance company can be made to pay more than their policy limits.
The defendant in this particular case maintained a car insurance policy with American Family. She only had $50,000 in coverage. Ultimately, American family paid $650,000. Here’s the short story about what happened:
Car Accident Causes Medical Bills in Excess of the Policy Limit
We represented a young girl who was involved in a pretty severe car collision. The defendant was a young college student who had been out floating on the river all day and was driving drunk. The car she owned was insured through her parents’ policy with American Family. It was only a $50,000 policy limit.
Our client sustained a pretty bad broken leg. Her medical bills alone were slightly in excess of $50,000. American Family quickly offered its fifty thousand policy limit. Here’s the catch, they also wanted our client to release not only the girl that hit her, but the girl’s parents, since they were also named insured on the policy.
This is a common tactic by most insurance companies. Frankly, most lawyers do not pay attention to the addition of additional people onto the release. However, in this case, our client refused to give a release not only to the girl that hit her, but also to the girl’s parents.
We continued to make numerous offers to American Family to accept the $50,000 in exchange for a release of solely the defendant driver. That offer was continuously rejected and American Family continued to insist on putting the parents on the release as well.
Independent Duty to Insured
Throughout the case and up to the final resolution, we continued to argue with American family that they owed an independent duty to each of its insured—including the defendant driver. By not accepting our offer to release her, they were risking her personal assets by not securing a release from her.
Frankly, we believe they were betting on the fact that we would not go to try the case, as 9 out of 10 law firms would just give up and just take the settlement.
To the contrary, we did try the case in Iron County, Missouri. We received a settlement of $585,000, which was, to our knowledge, the largest personal injury verdict to come out of that very conservative county. After that verdict, American Family quickly paid the $50,000 policy limit and left it at that.
Bad Faith Refusal to Settle
However, we had entered into an arrangement with the defendant driver whereby she would agree to sue American Family for what’s known as “bad faith refusal to settle.” Shortly after filing that lawsuit, American family agreed to pay our client the full amount of the judgment and further agreed to pay an additional $65,000 to its insured, the drunk driver, for its own actions of putting her in that situation, to begin with.
Certainly not every case can result in this type of recovery, where we get more than the policy limits, but a good personal injury lawyer will always be looking at the possibility of whether the insurance company has committed bad faith, and squeeze them for every dime in order to get their client fully compensated.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, feel free to give our law firm a call at 314-444-4444 to see what we can do for you. It’s always free to discuss your case, and you never pay us a dime until we get money in for you. That is why we call it our Risk-Free Fee Guarantee.