When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you are seeking full financial compensation for your economic losses and physical harm. This number is based on the severity of your injury, your medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress. However, no matter what a judge or jury awards you, your actual compensation will likely be limited by a defendant’s insurance policy. Our experienced Ft. Lauderdale personal injury attorney from South Florida Law, PLLC takes a closer look at insurance policy limits and the plaintiff’s options in the following paragraphs.
How Insurance Policy Limits Work in Florida
Every liability insurance policy that is purchased has a policy limit in place. A policy limit is the maximum amount an insurance company is liable for when injuries or other damages trigger its coverage. For instance, if a driver has a liability policy with a $70,000 limit, the insurance company will only pay up to that amount to an accident victim. Even in cases where a judge or jury awards $150,000 in a personal injury lawsuit, the coverage will still be limited to $70,000.
Collecting Excess Damages in a Florida Personal Injury Case
What options are available to an injured victim if a defendant’s insurance policy limits are less than their total compensation award? Fortunately, there are some ways that an injured plaintiff could recover the additional compensation they deserve.
One option available is to bring an additional lawsuit against one or more other defendants. A second is recovering the excess damages under an umbrella policy. And finally, an injured plaintiff could attempt to recover from the defendant personally.
Suing More Than One Defendant in Florida
In some cases, more than one party could be held liable for the injuries and damages that occurred because of an accident. Defendants in this situation are often referred to as “jointly and severally” liable for the total compensation an injured plaintiff is awarded. In the above example, one defendant’s insurance policy limit was $70,000. If another responsible party is found to be at fault and their policy limit is $80,000, both policies could be used to pay the awarded $150,000 judgment.
Unfortunately, there might not be two or more potentially responsible parties. Our Hallandale Beach personal injury lawyers will thoroughly investigate an accident to determine if there are more possible defendants than might be evident at the time of the incident.
For instance, in a case arising from medical malpractice, it could be possible to hold the treating physician and the medical facility accountable for any harm that was caused in the negligent care of a patient. Furthermore, errors could have been made by other medical professionals, including radiologists, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other technicians.
In a car accident case, the obvious defendant is the at-fault driver. However, if poor lighting or road conditions contributed to a crash, our Hollywood car accident attorney could file a claim against the municipality or agency that was responsible for the maintenance and safety of the road. Other possible contributing factors could include a defective or malfunctioning automotive part, such as an airbag that failed to deploy at the time of the crash. If this occurs, it could give rise to a products liability claim against the manufacturer.
There are instances where someone is injured by another party who is acting on behalf of another. A typical example of this is a truck driver who is driving for a trucking company. If the truck driver causes an accident, then any injured parties could have a reasonable claim against the driver’s insurance coverage and the company’s liability coverage. Under this legal theory, known as vicarious liability, an employer could be held accountable for their employee’s conduct.
Umbrella Policies in Florida
In some cases, there could be several insurance policies in play – even if there is only one defendant. While uncommon with individuals, many corporations and businesses will have an umbrella policy that serves as additional coverage in addition to any other policies they maintain. Umbrella policies are designed to trigger when a policyholder has a claim that exceeds the amount of one of their other insurance policies.
A common example of when additional insurance policies trigger is when an individual is involved in an accident caused by a Lyft or Uber driver. Rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors, so an accident victim is not permitted to sue either company under the vicarious liability theory. Therefore, an injured passenger or another driver must sue the Uber or Lyft driver personally. However, if the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient to cover the full amount of damages awarded, both Uber and Lyft carry additional insurance policies that will trigger. Make sure to speak to our Miami Uber and Lyft accident lawyers if you were in a crash.
Collecting From the Defendant
When a judgment exceeds the limits of a defendant’s insurance coverage, the injured plaintiff has the option to collect the excess award from the defendant personally. However, this is very difficult and often impossible if the defendant does not have assets or the financial resources to pay. Depending on the defendant’s situation, our Aventura car accident lawyers could place a judgment lien on their property subject to the legal exemptions available. In most cases, going after a defendant personally is an uphill battle.
Call Our Florida Personal Injury Attorney to Evaluate the Value of Your Claim
if you are injured because of another’s negligence, our Miami personal injury attorneys will base your compensation claim on your actual losses and not an insurance policy’s limits. However, what you will be able to collect will probably be dictated by the policy limits. You are also not guaranteed to be awarded everything you request. Therefore it is better to seek a full recovery of your losses. At South Florida Law, PLLC, our Ft. Lauderdale car accident lawyers and staff work aggressively to maximize our clients’ compensation awards. Sometimes, this requires finding ways to collect awards that exceed available insurance policies. Call our office at (954) 932-7877 to set up a free appointment.