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Can I Find out the Defendant's Policy Limit?

You are concerned that the person at fault may not have enough insurance to cover your medical bills, so that you'll be left having to pay the bills out of your own pocket.

Whether your injuries resulted from a dog bite, or a car accident, bicycle accident or motorcycle accident, or from a slip and fall on someone else's property, this is a valid concern.

CAN YOU FIND OUT THE DEFENDANT'S POLICY LIMIT?

Yes. And how you do that depends on whether you've filed a lawsuit yet.

After You File a Lawsuit

After you file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, your personal injury attorney will serve the defendant with a document called "Form Interrogatories." These are questions which the defendant must answer in writing under oath. One of the questions, Form Interrogatory 4.1, asks whether at the time of the accident, the defendant had any insurance which covers, or might cover, your injury claim. In answering the interrogatory, the defendant must disclose all insurance policies which might apply to your injury claim, including umbrella policies, and each policy's limit.

Before You File a Lawsuit

Before you file a lawsuit, the defendant has no duty to disclose to you or your personal injury attorney the amount of his policy limit. Only if the defendant authorizes it can his insurance adjuster disclose the amount of the policy limit. Sometimes the defendant authorizes disclosure, sometimes the defendant doesn't.

If the medical bills you have submitted to the insurance company are low and the defendant's policy limit is high, there's a good chance the defendant won't authorize disclosure, fearing that if you find out there's plenty of insurance, you'll just build up more medical bills for unnecessary treatment.

However, if you have submitted a substantial amount of medical bills to the insurance company, and the defendant has a low policy limit, and your claim is clearly worth more than the policy limit, than the insurance company will likely disclose the policy limit.

If the defendant refuses to authorize disclosure of the policy limit, or if you want this information right away, without waiting around for the insurance adjuster to respond to your request, your attorney can hire an insurance tracing company that will verify the policy limit. Insurance tracing companies only work with attorneys; they will not work with unrepresented injury victims.

MY SUGGESTION

Aggressively seek to find out the defendant's policy limit. Gather up all of your medical records and bills, and documentation of any lost wages, and submit the documentation to the defendant's insurance company, with a letter demanding immediate disclosure of the policy limit. That will trigger the insurance company sending a letter to the defendant asking if he wants to disclose the policy limit. This will get the ball rolling. If more medical bills and reports are generated, keep funneling them to the adjuster. The more documentation of your injury and your bills that you provide to the adjuster, the more likely the policy limit will be disclosed.

If you already have a personal injury attorney representing you, ask your attorney if he has requested disclosure of the defendant's policy limit, or if he has hired an insurance tracing company to obtain this information. If the answer is no, there is reason to be concerned. It may be time to think about getting a second opinion from another lawyer. At our firm, in our first letter to the defendant's insurance adjuster, we always demand disclosure of the policy limit. We believe this should be standard practice by every personal injury lawyer, but surprisingly, it's not.

Too many times, I've taken over personal injury cases from prior attorneys who made no attempt to find out the defendant's policy limit. Often times, the attorney referred the client for expensive medical tests and treatment, (MRIs, epidural steroid injections, etc.) without regard to the policy limit. Many attorneys operate on the theory that the more medical bills they can ring up, the faster they can turn the case over, and the more money they can get for it. But it's the client who will suffer, not the attorney, if there's not enough insurance to pay the medical bills. The client is the one on the hook for these bills. And know this: even if your medical treatment was rendered on a lien basis (i.e., the doctor agrees to wait to be paid until your case settles), you are still on the hook for those bills, regardless of the outcome of your case. If it turns out there's not enough insurance to pay all of your medical bills, you are still legally obligated to pay them. The attorney will get his money off the top of the settlement, but you will only end up with money in your pocket if there is money left after paying off the medical bills.

BOTTOM LINE

You don't want to end up with more medical bills than there is insurance to cover them. You need a California personal injury lawyer who will aggressively seek to find out the defendant's policy limit.

For a free consultation or free second opinion on your personal injury case, speak with an accident attorney at McGee, Lerer and Associates. We have four locations to serve our clients: Santa Monica, Long Beach, Pasadena and Los Angeles. Our firm handles exclusively personal injury cases, with an emphasis on serious injury claims. Daniel McGee and Catherine Lerer are a husband and wife attorney team with 40years of collective experience.

We know that accidents don't always happen during business hours, and when you need to speak to an attorney, you want to speak with one NOW. An attorney at our firm is available 24/7 for a free consultation.

Let our family help yours.