I was in a bad car wreck. I had $100,000 in medical bills and missed fifteen weeks of work (I make $1200 per week as a plumber). I am probably going to have to have another surgery. My doctor also says I will have arthritis in my left leg for the rest of my life. I just found out that the person who hit me only has $100,000 of liability insurance. That is not enough for what she did to me. Can I force the person who caused the wreck to pay me out of his pocket?
A person or company is always liable for all of the harm they negligently cause. A person purchases insurance to reduce his or her own risk of coming out of pocket to pay for that harm, but if the harm caused exceeds the amount of insurance purchased she is liable for the rest.
The problem, of course, is collecting from a person who causes harm. To make a payment to the injured person over and above the amount of insurance the person who causes harm must have assets, income, or both. Many people have very few assets and insufficient income to make a payment to the person who they hurt. If pressed, these people will often just file bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court will discharge the obligation. (There are some exceptions to this. For example, the bankruptcy court will not discharge the lawsuit-related obligation of a drunk driver or a person who intentionally harms another.)
An experienced personal injury lawyer will help you evaluate the factors you should consider in determining how hard to press the defendant to make a personal contribution over and above the liability insurance policy available for the claim. This often requires an attempt to get the at-fault driver to disclose his assets and income information. Smart people do this, knowing that the failure to do so will result in a lawsuit and probably bankruptcy.