Yes, you may seek more compensation from the liable party than their insurance policy permits. That would require suing the person directly for additional damages. These situations are not wholly uncommon.
Virginia has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. For example, the per-accident property damage requirement is only $20,000. Many new vehicles cost at least two times that amount. As for personal injury, many insurance policies barely cover medical bills, especially in spine injury, wrongful death, and other catastrophic injury claims.
Collecting the judgment is a separate issue. Most people are effectively judgment-proof. Nevertheless, depending on the facts of the case, a Richmond car accident lawyer typically has a number of collection options. All these options are rather complex. So, your attorney must have sufficient expertise to evaluate your claim and sufficient tenacity to see things through to the end.
Umbrella Insurance Policies
Many people have this additional insurance coverage. Most insurance companies provide umbrella coverage in $1 million increments. People who have large investment accounts, such as IRAs or money market accounts, are especially likely to have umbrella insurance policies. These liquid assets are often at risk if the defendant’s insurance policy does not fully cover the victim’s losses.
There are other incentives as well. Most umbrella policies cover everyone in the household, such as a teenage driver. Additionally, most of these policies apply to rental property that’s rented to a tenant. Furthermore, umbrella policy premiums are usually quite low. Most insurance companies charge less than $35 a month for a $1 million umbrella policy. For many people, the additional peace of mind these policies provide is well worth that price.
In Virginia, if the victim’s losses exceed $12,500, the other driver must disclose the amount of insurance coverage. The average hospital stay in Virginia costs almost $3,000 a day, and many new cars are worth $30,000 or $40,000. Therefore, this $12,500 threshold is usually not an issue.
If the negligent driver has sufficient insurance coverage, either through the basic policy or an umbrella policy, the claim is relatively straightforward, as no one else is usually involved. If lack of insurance is an issue, there are other options.
Sometimes the responsible party is a third party–that is, someone not directly involved in the incident–in which case a vicarious liability claim holds that party responsible. In these cases, obtaining full compensation for losses may be more difficult (albeit, not impossible).
Example of Vicarious Liability
Since people under 18, for example, cannot own property, if a teen driver causes an accident, the vehicle’s owner could be responsible for damages. Negligent entrustment liability applies if the owner knowingly allowed an incompetent operator to use the car, and that operator caused a collision. Evidence of incompetency includes:
– Driving in violation of a license restriction
– A poor driving record
– Inexperience operating a certain type of vehicle or driving in a certain place
– No valid drivers’ license
These claims are important not just financially. These claims also send a strong message to vehicle owners that they must be more judicious when allowing people to get behind the wheel of their vehicles.
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For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Richmond, contact Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C. Regardless of your situation, you likely have a limited amount of time to act. The sooner you get a lawyer on your case, the better.