Can I Sue for More than the Defendant’s Insurance Policy Limits in Arkansas?
Insurance policy limits are based on the specific policy that a driver picks. In Arkansas, car insurance policies are designed to cover the at-fault driver so that the victim can get the compensation they need after a serious accident. But what if the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limit is too low to cover the victim’s needs? Does that mean they can’t get their injuries and medical bills compensated? Fayetteville, AR car accident lawyer Ken Kieklak explains how you can often file a lawsuit for higher than the defendant’s policy limits and how to get the damages you need.
Does the Law in Arkansas Let You Sue for More than a Driver’s Policy Limits?
An auto insurance policy is a contract between the insured driver and their insurance company. Under this contract, the driver agrees to pay monthly insurance premiums in exchange for coverage when they need it. The insurance policy dictates what limits are placed on the payments the insurance company will make. Usually, these limits include an upper maximum for how much the insurance company will pay (e.g., up to $25,000 for bodily injury), limitations on what types of damages they will cover (e.g., they’ll cover medical expenses but not pain and suffering), and what costs the at-fault driver is expected to pay out-of-pocket (e.g., a deductible).
The most important part of this setup is that the insurance policy is a contract between the insured driver and the insurance company. Other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists that a driver might hit with their car are not parties to this contract at all. As such, these terms are not binding on them and do not place any limitations on what damages they can claim.
While an insurance policy might have a limit as to how much the insurance company will pay to their insured driver, policy limits do nothing to limit how much the at-fault driver might be legally responsible for. In lawsuits against the at-fault driver, you can claim any damages that they caused you, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The insurance company might have a contractual obligation to support the defendant by paying for some of these damages, and the defendant is usually on the hook personally for any overages.
Suing for Car Accidents Above Policy Limits in Arkansas
In Arkansas, insurance works under an “at-fault” system. This means that the at-fault driver’s insurance pays for the accident, as opposed to a “no-fault” system where each driver’s insurance policy covers their own injuries, such as traumatic brain injury or car accident whiplash, regardless of who was at fault. In Arkansas, you can add on no-fault coverage so that your insurance might cover some of your injury case, but this does not necessarily limit your right to sue in serious cases that exceed your “PIP” limit. Generally speaking, an at-fault insurance system also allows you to sue the at-fault driver instead of making a claim against their insurance.
Insurance policies often pay low damages for a few reasons. First, the policy limits might be quite low. In Arkansas, minimum insurance laws require drivers to carry only $25,000 for injury to one person and $25,000 for property damage. This minimum insurance will not cover the cost of damages to many new cars, let alone the damages for a serious injury like traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury. Second, policies often restrict damages so that the insurance company will not cover pain and suffering, leaving only a fraction of the victim’s damages covered even if the policy limit is not reached.
Because of this, it is so incredibly important for many victims to file lawsuits for their car accident injuries instead of relying on insurance claims. Not only can a lawsuit allow you to sue for more than the driver’s policy limits, but it can also open additional areas of damages you need covered.
Getting Damages Above Policy Limits in an Arkansas Car Accident Case
If the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limit is lower than the damages you need from them, then you can still sue them in court for the full value of your damages. However, if the driver does not have the funds to cover your damages, they could be unable to afford to pay you. There are many ways to get additional damages covered in a car accident injury case that your car accident injury attorney can explore.
First, you can often get at least some additional damages paid out of pocket by the at-fault driver. If a court orders the driver to pay more money than their insurance policy covers, then the driver will be individually responsible for the rest of the funds. If they can afford the damages out of pocket, they will be required to pay. If they cannot, our Arkansas car accident lawyers might be able to attach property to the case and have the damages paid out of the sale of the property.
Second, you might be able to sue the driver’s employer or another at-fault party. If you were injured by a commercial truck driver or someone who was on the job when they caused your accident, their employer might be economically responsible for the damages they caused. If multiple drivers are found jointly liable for your injuries, they could both be required to pay a portion of your damages.
Third, you could use uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to get additional damages you need. Many insurance policies will cover their drivers’ injuries in cases where the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage is too low to cover the victim’s damages in full. Talk to our Fayetteville, AR negligent driver car accident lawyer about claiming these “UM/UIM” benefits from your own insurance policy.
Lastly, in some cases you could be entitled to sue the insurance company itself for “bad faith.” This could allow you to force an insurance company to pay damages when they fail to make a reasonable, good-faith effort to pay a claim.
Call Our Arkansas Car Accident Injury Lawyers for a Free Case Consultation
If you were injured in a car accident that might be worth more than the at-fault driver’s policy limit, talk to a Fayetteville, AR personal injury lawyer right away. Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, is a Fayetteville personal injury lawyer representing car accident injury victims in auto accident lawsuits. Ken fights to get his clients the damages they need, even if the insurance companies refuse to pay what their at-fault driver owes. For a free case consultation, call us today at (479) 316-0438.
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