When you’re injured in an automobile incident, the maximum amount that you can receive is usually limited by the other driver’s liability coverage. This is the reason that I advise buying underinsured motorist coverage. In Missouri, the minimum amount of liability coverage is $25,000, which is often not enough to cover my clients’ damages.
The purpose of buying liability insurance is to protect the purchaser from expense when they are in a crash. The insurance company has an obligation to their customer to attempt to settle claims within coverage limits. If the insurance company doesn’t settle the case within the limits of the customer’s policy and the jury awards the victim more than the liability coverage of the insurance policy, then the customer is responsible to pay the difference. If the insurance company had the opportunity to settle within the policy limits and refused in an effort to save money, they are not keeping their promise. In a recent case, the insurance company refused to settle within the policy limits, and my client recovered much more than the policy limit.
The case involved a young man who was a passenger in a car that hit a guardrail. Both he and his driver had been drinking alcohol, and he was riding with her rather than risking driving himself. We presented his claim to the driver’s insurer, the Automobile Club or AAA, and asked for the full amount of her $50,000 liability policy. Even though my client had over $100,000 in medical bills, AAA did not offer their policy limits.
We gave them four opportunities, or demands, to pay the limits. At the last opportunity, the driver’s company attorney, who is an officer and employee of AAA, filed an offer of judgment for $40,000. This was the last straw.
We advised the driver that my client was willing to enter into an agreement to protect her assets and only sue her insurance company if she would agree to fire the company attorney and allow the damages portion of the case to proceed in front of a judge. She did so and the judge awarded over $500,000 in his verdict.
At this point we filed suit against AAA directly. We got their claim file and learned that they were aware of the extent of my client’s injuries one month after the crash, yet they never offered their policy limits. In fact, when the company lawyer offered $40,000, he had authority from the claims adjuster to pay the full policy limits! His gamble ultimately cost the company $225,000 as they settled the claim in mediation rather than let a jury add attorney fees and punitive damages to the verdict.
After a car accident, there is never enough money to make the victim whole. My law firm is dedicated to fighting for every client that chooses us to represent them, and we explore every avenue to make things right for them. If you have been injured in a car accident, call The S.E. Farris Law Firm, and we’ll fight for you.