Auto Accident Settlement
What Do I Do if I Have Insurance and I’m Personally Being Sued Over a Car Accident?
Being involved in a car accident can be a scary and stressful situation. Being involved in a car accident and being sued because you are allegedly at fault can make everything feel even worse. However, the good news is that if you have car insurance and are being sued personally, your insurance should be able to provide you with a lawyer to help defend your case.
Car Insurance Policies and “Duty to Defend”
Generally, car insurance policies contain language that states that the car insurance company will provide an attorney for the policyholder in the event that they get into a car accident and are sued for damages at a later time. This falls under the insurance company’s “duty to defend,” which is normally included in the language of any kind of liability insurance policy.
However, it is important to note that many insurance companies may have exceptions to this obligation. That means that there are certain circumstances that may let the insurance company void its obligation to defend the policyholder.
Three Situations in Which Your Insurance Company May Not Provide a Lawyer
As with many things, there are exceptions to the “duty to defend.” Here are three situations in which your car insurance company may not choose to provide you with a defense attorney in an automobile accident case:
1. No Notice/Claim of Accident
As a policyholder, you have an obligation to report car accidents to the insurance companies within a certain time frame, which is outlined in your individual policies. If that obligation is not met, your insurance company may no longer be obligated with the “duty to defend.”
It is your responsibility as the policyholder to read the information contained in your policy and get the accident reported as soon as possible. In some cases, the window of reporting can close as early as 5 to 10 days after the accident occurred. If you don’t contact the company within that time frame, without a good reason, they may be legally discharged from providing coverage for the accident. Since providing an attorney to you if you get sued is part of your coverage, it stands to reason that if you are no longer eligible for coverage, you no longer receive that benefit.
There are a few reasons why you may not report that accident within the time frame, and in these cases, you may not have your policy coverage and protections revoked. If you are severely physically injured and in the hospital, for example, or if you are mentally or physically incapable of notifying the insurance company, those would qualify as extenuating circumstances, which would excuse your failure to report the accident.
2. Intentional Act Causing a Car Accident
Another reason that your insurance company may not have to honor their “duty to defend” is if the policyholder was found to have caused the accident intentionally.
Automobile insurance policies are generally written to cover the acts of negligence, not the intentional actions that cause car accidents. If you are accused of causing a car accident purposefully, your insurance company will most likely refuse to cover the accident and will refuse to provide you with a lawyer should you get sued over the damages resulting from the crash.
3. Car Accident Damages Exceed Policy Limits
The last exception for the car insurance company to provide a lawyer is if the damages paid out by the insurance company meet the policy’s coverage limits. Generally speaking, once the insurer has met its contractual obligations, it has no more duty to the insured. In other words, the insurance company would not be obligated to pay further claims and it would not be obligated to provide you with a lawyer.
For example, if your auto insurance policy covers up to $25,000 in liability coverage, but you were determined to be at fault for an accident that caused the driver to have serious injuries that cost far more to treat, the insurance company would try to settle for an amount with your policy coverage. However, if the injured party does not agree to the settlement, the insurance company may pay the injured party the policy limit of $25,000 without settling the case. If that occurs, it means the injured party could sue you for the remainder of the damages (with the exception of the money already received from the insurance company). If the injured party does choose to sue you, the insurance company would be under no legal obligation to provide you with a lawyer as it has already fulfilled its contractual obligations to you.
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t despair. Call a civil litigation attorney and let them help by guiding you through this stressful process. An experienced accident attorney can help you protect your assets in the event that you are being personally sued following a car accident.
What if I Was Also Injured in the Car Accident?
Even if you are provided with a defense attorney by your insurance company because you are being sued by an injured party, that attorney will not be able to help you with your personal injury case. In the event that you also have incurred injuries that you believe were caused by another party, you will need to contact your own personal injury attorney to help you.
Your personal injury attorney will be able to help you with your case by talking with police, gathering evidence, contacting doctors, and finding witnesses who can testify about the accident. When you hire an attorney to help you with this, you are giving yourself your best chance at recovering the compensation that you need and the justice you deserve.
Call Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd today
No matter what the circumstances, being involved in a car accident can be a very difficult time. You don’t have to handle this alone! Call an experienced attorney who will be by your side as you navigate through the steps of recovering from the accident and moving on with your life.
Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd have over 35 years of experience serving Florida’s Treasure Coast community. With offices in Vero Beach, Port St. Lucie, Okeechobee, and Fort Pierce, we are conveniently located to serve you. We can provide you with representation on a personal injury case, and we can provide some amount of guidance and a referral to a reputable civil litigation lawyer in the event you must defend against liability.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced attorney who will provide you with specific, personalized advice about your case and what your next best moves are. To schedule your free case review, call 866-460-1990 or contact us online today.
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