I live in Tennessee and was badly hurt in a car wreck in Tennessee. My medical bills for the injuries received in the wreck exceed $100,000. The driver who caused the wreck only has $25,000 in liability insurance and I have the same amount in uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage. What are my rights?
You have the right to go to trial, prove the fault of the driver who caused the wreck, prove the nature and extent of your damages, and let a judge or jury decide the value of your case. If the value of the case exceeds the amount of insurance that the at-fault driver has (and it would under the facts you have stated above) you can attempt to collect the extra amount from the driver who caused the wreck.
Under Tennessee law, you will not be able to collect to collect any monies from you uninsured / underinsured motorist carrier because the amount of insurance the at-fault driver is equal to your UM / UIM coverage. The law of some states would permit you to collect money from your own insurance company under these circumstances, but not if the UM / UIM policy was issued in Tennessee.
So, how do you collect the rest of the judgment you won against the at-fault driver? There are several options. You can follow a legal process to get a portion of the person’s paycheck. You can seize their checking and savings accounts. You can take any stocks and bonds they own. If he or she owns real estate in his or her own name you can force a transfer or sale of it. In summary, there are lots of things that a lawyer can help you do to get the at-fault driver to pay what they should pay.
Of course, the at-fault driver who is insolvent or is rendered insolvent can always file bankruptcy and ask the bankruptcy court to discharge the debt. Whether this can and will happen is dependent on the facts of the case.
In summary, winning a lawsuit and obtaining a judgment is only one step on the path to collecting the money that the law says that you are entitled to recover. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand the process for collecting more money than the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits or giving you guidance about the wisdom of pursing an at-fault driver (or any other defendant) for money over-and-above the liability insurance policy applicable to the case.