In most personal injury claims, the injured party will deal directly with the other party’s insurance company. However, liability coverage may prove more complicated than you initially thought, especially in cases of disputed liability.
How does liability insurance coverage work? When can you file for compensation through someone else’s liability insurance coverage? A personal injury attorney can answer many of your questions about liability insurance and how it may apply to your claim.
What is Liability Insurance?
Many people and businesses carry liability insurance that helps protect them when their negligence causes an accident that harms another person. The type of liability coverage may influence how much protection it offers, including what the insurance company will pay out.
Liability auto insurance provides protection when one driver’s liability causes an accident that causes damage to someone else’s vehicle or injury to another person. In California, drivers must carry a minimum of $5,000 in property damage protection and $15,000 minimum protection against bodily injury per individual. Bodily injury protection usually offers $30,000 for all individuals injured in a car accident, even if the accident involves multiple injuries.
Liability-only auto insurance does not provide any protection for the driver that causes the accident. While some drivers choose to carry other protection, including collision insurance, liability protection only assists the party injured by the negligent actions of that driver.
Many property owners, including landlords, will carry property insurance on a building. In addition to providing coverage if something happens to the building itself, property insurance also provides much-needed protection if the building owner’s negligence leads to a serious injury.
Suppose, for example, that a private property owner has a poorly-maintained set of stairs in the back of the house, leading off the deck. When someone visits that property, the property owner fails to properly warn that person about the dangerous stairs, and the other party suffers a serious injury. As a result, the injured party might have the right to seek compensation through the owner’s property insurance.
Property insurance may also help protect the owners of commercial property. For example, if poor maintenance on a retail establishment leads to an injury for which the property owner might face liability, property insurance might kick in and compensate the injured individual.
Business Liability Insurance
Many business owners carry business liability insurance: insurance that provides protection when the negligence of the business owner, or the business owner’s employees, causes a serious injury to someone using that business or its services.
Business liability insurance may depend on the type of business: for example, gym owners may need to carry more robust protection than the average owner of a store, since gyms often involve injury-prone activities that have a higher likelihood of causing serious problems for the injured party.
Medical Malpractice Insurance
Most doctors and hospitals carry medical malpractice insurance to provide compensation when a doctor or care provider commits an error, frequently due to negligence or careless inattention, that results in serious injury for a patient.
Medical malpractice can cause substantial challenges in a patient’s life, especially if it includes a surgical error or “never event,” and medical malpractice insurance helps ensure that the patient will receive the assistance and compensation he deserves for those injuries.
How Does Liability Coverage Work?
Liability insurance often serves as the primary line of compensation and coverage when someone suffers serious injuries in an accident caused by another party. That insurance coverage can provide vitally needed assistance, particularly when it comes to serious injuries that have led to immense out-of-pocket costs.
While you can seek compensation from someone, including a business, that does not carry liability insurance, injured individuals may have a much harder time recovering compensation, especially if that individual or entity does not have substantial financial assets.
On the other hand, injured individuals should keep in mind that liability insurance exists to protect the liable party and prevent personal liability in the case of an accident. Insurance companies also seek to make money, rather than provide immense protection for people who sustained severe injuries. As a result, you should expect the insurance company to act in its own best interests, not in yours.
When someone else’s negligence causes an accident, the injured party can file a claim against the liable party’s insurance company.
The liable party, in an insurance claim, includes any party that caused or contributed to the accident due to negligence.
In general, to establish grounds for a personal injury claim, the injured party, or the injured party’s attorney, will need to prove several key things to establish grounds for a personal injury claim.
First, the injured party must show that the liable party bore a duty of care to him. For example, in a car accident, a personal injury claim assumes that all drivers bear a duty of care to all others who use the road, including motorcycle riders, drivers and passengers, pedestrians, and bike riders.
Second, the injured party will need to show that the liable party committed some act of negligence that led to the accident. In a car accident, negligence includes careless, reckless, or simply absent-minded actions: texting and driving, failing to yield, drinking and driving, speeding, or ignoring traffic signals, for example.
Finally, the injured party will need to show that he suffered an injury due to the liable party’s negligence. Most of the time, personal injury claims involve injuries that result in financial costs to the victim. Even the cost of broken bones can add up substantially after an accident, particularly if the victim requires surgery or physical therapy following the injury.
Working with a lawyer can make it easier to establish that you have grounds for a personal injury claim and put together a compelling demand package that shows the compensation you may deserve for your injuries. Often, injured individuals find that an attorney can identify areas of compensation they may not have considered.
The insurance company will investigate the claim.
Insurance companies will need to investigate every aspect of a claim before deciding whether to pay out compensation. In some cases, the liable party can make a claim progress more smoothly by accepting liability for the accident.
Suppose, for example, that you suffered injuries in a car accident. If the liable driver admits liability for the accident, the insurance company may move the process forward more quickly. If, on the other hand, the liable driver refuses to accept liability for the accident, the situation may require a more in-depth investigation.
The investigation into your claim may include several critical elements.
#1. The Accident Itself
Depending on the situation’s complexity and how the accident occurred, investigating the accident can take quite some time. In the case of a car accident, for example, the insurance company might need to look at:
#2. Witness Statements
The insurance company may take a statement from its driver as well as from the injured party. Then, the insurance company will look into information from anyone else who may have seen the accident.
While witness statements can prove vital to establishing what led to an accident, insurance companies will also consider the fact that witness statements may not prove entirely accurate, especially as more time goes by after the accident. Witnesses may start to suppress traumatic memories or even have biased opinions of what led to the accident.
#3. Accident Reports
After a car accident, especially a car accident involving significant property damage or injury, the drivers involved in the accident should report it to the police. The police will come to the accident scene and write up a report that establishes some evidence of the accident, including an initial impression of what may have caused the accident.
In other types of accidents, including premises liability accidents, the business may write up an accident report that will help establish what may have led to the accident.
#4. Video or Photo Evidence
Videos and photos can prove essential to establish exactly what took place during an accident and how it may have occurred. Many drivers now use dash cams to help provide evidence after an accident. In other cases, you may have traffic camera footage or security camera footage that can help provide video evidence of the accident.
If you do not have access to video footage, you may have photos from the accident scene. Those photos can help make it easier for the insurance company to recreate the accident and get a more accurate idea of what may have led to it. For example, if a broken handrail caused you to suffer injuries in a slip and fall, you may want to take photos of the damage to the handrail and how it occurred.
The insurance company will also want to investigate the injuries you sustained in your accident. You may need to provide your medical records, photo evidence of your injuries, and even a statement about how those injuries have impacted your life.
Keep in mind that you may want to talk to a lawyer before discussing your injuries and limitations with the insurance company, since the insurance company may look for ways to minimize the compensation it has to pay out after your accident.
The insurance company will determine what it’s willing to pay you.
The insurance company, after looking at the evidence related to the accident, will make an internal determination about the accident. This determination will include who likely bears liability for the accident as well as the compensation you may deserve for your injuries.
Receiving an initial settlement can cause many accident victims to feel a great deal of relief. A settlement offer may seem timely, especially as medical bills start to mount. However, most insurance companies will use a scale that offers only a percentage of the compensation you really deserve as part of an initial settlement offer.
Having an attorney evaluate your claim can make it easier to determine how much compensation you really deserve for your injuries.
You have the right to accept or decline a settlement offer.
When you receive a settlement offer, you do not have to accept it. In many cases, you may find that it makes more sense to continue to negotiate as you pursue the compensation you really deserve for your injuries. Your attorney can issue a counteroffer that includes the compensation you feel that you really deserve, based on your actual injuries and the challenges, including financial challenges, you may have faced as a result of those injuries.
Carefully evaluate a settlement offer to determine whether it reflects the compensation you really deserve for your injuries. If the offer does not seem fair, an attorney can help fight for the compensation you really deserve.
The insurance company often will not accept the first demand package you submit, either. The insurance company may come back with another offer that incorporates some, but not necessarily all, of the compensation elements you have pointed out.
You may have to go through several rounds of negotiation before you arrive at a settlement agreement that works for both you and the insurance company. In some cases, your claim may have to go to court to reach a fair resolution.
Do You Need an Attorney to Help with a Liability Claim?
If you have suffered a serious injury due to someone else’s negligence, having an attorney on your side can make a huge difference as you pursue compensation for your injuries through an insurance company.
Contact a personal injury lawyer attorney near you as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about how to deal with the liability insurance company and receive the support you deserve.