The guy that hit me in my Lebanon, Tennessee car accident has limited insurance but I know he has assets. Can I get insurance money and then go after him individually for the difference?
In Tennessee most insurance companies will continue to defend their insured driver even if they have offered insurance policy limits but the injured party refuses to accept them because the value of the case is far more than the insurance available.
So, ordinarily you will have to determine whether you want or need the insurance money (if it is offered to you) or if you are willing to press for more money from the insured at-fault driver individually and thus wait to collect the insurance money.
Whether it makes sense to seek additional money from the insured depends on various factors. Our office recently advised a client to go after the individual assets of a man who caused a wreck. We did an investigation that revealed that the man had several rental properties that had equity in them and that after the wreck the man added his wife’s name to the properties in an effort to protect them from a lawsuit by us. He also rebuffed our initial efforts to discover his financial information. We thought it was important to hold him responsible for the harm he caused, and thus pressed forward with the lawsuit even though his insurance company was willing to pay the liability insurance policy limits. After lots of effort, we persuaded the at-fault driver to pay $100,000 over and above the insurance policy limits. This payment not only benefited our client but also made it possible for the man we sued to avoid bankruptcy – which is probably what would have happened to him if we had a trial and obtained the judgment against him that our client was entitled to receive.
We did the same thing to an underinsured trucking company several years ago. The company only had $1,000,000 in insurance, and we refused to settle the case unless the company paid additional money out of its own account.
Unfortunately, we are not always able to get this type of wonderful result for our clients. Some of the at-fault drivers we sue or file claims against simply have no ability to pay any money out of their pockets and many of our clients do not want to force another person into bankruptcy. But, when circumstances make it appropriate to do so, we will recommend to our clients that they refuse to settle for insurance policy limits and press the wrongdoer (either an individual or a company) for additional monies.
The possibility of personal contribution from the at-fault driver is yet another reason you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to guide you through the litigation process.