You sue the other driver after a car accident, not their insurance company. If there is a judgement made in your favor after suing the other driver, their insurer will pay for it, up to the limits of the driver’s policy. Once the limits have been reached, it is the other driver’s responsibility to pay the remaining sum. However, your ability to collect damages will vary between states.
State Laws Regarding Accident Lawsuits
How you are awarded damages in a lawsuit after an accident depends heavily on your state’s laws on negligence. Four states and the District of Columbia follow a rule of “contributory negligence.” Under this rule, if you contributed to the accident at all, then you won’t be able to collect damages. Most other states use a “comparative negligence” system, which means that damages are awarded based on the individual’s share of the fault.
There are also 12 no-fault states that strictly limit when you can file a lawsuit against the other driver. You can only sue the other driver if you sustained a severe injury, since your own insurance policy pays for your medical expenses regardless of who is at fault.
When You Can Sue an Insurance Company Directly
In certain situations, it could be possible to sue the other driver’s insurance company if they are acting in bad faith. Examples of this would be if they refuse to pay a claim that you are owed, or if they deny your claim without explanation. However, this is a tricky route to navigate, and it should only be utilized if the insurance company acts in an unethical manner.
If the Other Driver is Uninsured
If the other driver is uninsured, a lawsuit might be tricky. An uninsured driver is unlikely to have the assets to pay any damages you might be awarded.
In these situations, you need to rely on uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection (PIP), or collision coverage to pay for your expenses when the accident was not your fault. If you don’t carry any of these types of coverage, then you’ll be responsible for paying all of your expenses out of pocket.
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