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Written by: Steven R. Clawson
| Read Time: 4 minutes

Often, after a car accident, it helps to have an attorney represent you in the claims process. Insurance companies tend to negotiate more equitably when they know that they are working with an attorney. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same when it comes to individuals representing themselves. Sometimes insurance companies play fair even when they aren’t negotiating with other professionals, but not always. Thus, it typically helps to have an attorney represent you in settlement negotiations.

If your car accident damages exceed policy limits, however, it is critical that you retain the services of a skilled car accident attorney. When the damages you suffer exceed insurance policy limits, the process for recovering them can easily end up in a messy legal process. Often, if you find yourself in such a situation, you may have to file a lawsuit. 

In this piece, we aim to answer a question we often receive from our clients at Wells Call Injury Lawyers. How often do auto accident settlements exceed the policy limits? The short answer to the question is that it depends on certain factors. Whether or not your accident claim exceeds policy limits depends, almost entirely, on the circumstances of your accident. Read on for a guide on how to know if your accident exceeds policy limits, and what to do if it does.

How Can I Tell if My Accident Exceeds Policy Limits?

Really, the best way to know whether or not your accident exceeds policy limits is to have a lawyer help you. A lawyer will help you account for all of the damages you suffered so that you can properly include them in your claim. This often includes damages that you may not have considered before. With your assistance, your attorney will help you get an idea as to whether your accident exceeds policy limits. 

You can also make an estimate of your claim’s value on your own prior to speaking with an attorney. Before talking about making an estimate regarding your own accident, however, we should consider California’s insurance rules. California law imposes a minimum amount of coverage that every driver’s liability insurance must meet.

Using the minimum, we have a benchmark from which we can compare your own accident to. While some drivers’ liability insurance exceeds the minimum, not all do. Many people in California choose to purchase only the minimum amount of liability insurance that the state requires.

California’s Minimum Liability Insurance for Drivers

As in most other states, California law requires some amount of liability insurance for every driver. Currently, California law requires any driver to maintain minimum liability insurance coverage of:

  • $15,000 per accident, per person, for bodily injury;
  • $30,000 total per accident for bodily injury;
  • $5,000 in property damage;
  • $2,000 for medical payments;
  • $15,000 per accident, per person, for uninsured motorists; and
  • $30,000 total for uninsured motorists.

So, if your own total bodily injury damages exceed $15,000, there is a good chance that your damages will exceed policy limits. Additional coverage is always available, and some drivers may have coverage for up to $150,000 in total bodily injury damages. Some Californian drivers carry insurance policies that cover up to $100,000 per accident, per motorist. However, this is the exception rather than the rule.

Specific Expenses That Drive Damages Up

Aside from adding up all of your expenses individually, you can also look for certain types of expensive damages. These damages are likely to bump your claim from a claim within policy limits to one far above those limits. Some of the types of damages you might look for are:

  • Property damages that exceed typical policy limits;
  • Emergency medical transportation;
  • Emergency medical services;
  • Surgery for your injuries;
  • Rehabilitation for your injuries;
  • Long or short term disability as a result of your injuries; and
  • Generally, injuries that require consistent treatment to recover from.

These aren’t the only types of damages that can drive your accident claim beyond policy limits. However, if one of these applies to your case, there is a good chance that your damages might exceed the responsible party’s policy limits. 

What Should I Do if I Think My Accident Exceeds Policy Limits?

If you think your accident’s damages exceed policy limits, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible. First, your lawyer will help you determine the value of your claim. This will help you decide what your next step is. If your accident claim exceeds typical policy limits, you will need to consider filing a lawsuit. Of course, you typically need an attorney to do so. 

How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

It is important to know whether your accident’s damages exceed policy limits as soon as possible after your accident so you can initiate the damage recovery process immediately. The timing is critical because, if you eventually need to file a lawsuit, your time is limited. For personal injury claims in California, you have two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit.

For property damages, however, you have three years. In any case, it is critical to get the ball rolling before the statute of limitations expires. Thus, it is critical to determine what you need to do as soon as possible after your accident. 

What if the Driver Is Uninsured?

If a driver is uninsured or underinsured, you can always file a lawsuit to recover your damages. Aside from a lawsuit, you can often file an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance provider. Uninsured motorist insurance is required for all California drivers, but only up to $3,500.

Thus, uninsured motorist claim payouts will vary depending on your own insurance policy. You may have an upgrade that makes it higher, but the minimum is always $3,500. 

Wells Call Injury Lawyers Can Help

Regardless of whether or not your accident exceeds policy limits, you can always call us at Wells Call Injury Lawyers for help. One of the primary goals of our professional corporation of like-minded attorneys is to ensure that our clients know how committed we are to them. To achieve this end and ensure optimal service for our clients, we have offices all over the state that our clients can come to in person.

Our offices in Fairfield, Vacaville, Vallejo Napa, Richmond, and Woodland are always open during office hours for our clients to personally drop in. That’s because we know that successful legal representation rests on trust and commitment between ourselves and our clients.

For a free case review, contact us today or come by one of our offices in person. We will deliver the best possible results to you and your loved ones. 

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