Can I Force my Insurance Company to Settle?

Question:  I have just been sued for a car accident.  I referred everything to my insurance company to handle it, but I am worried about getting a judgment entered against me.  Can I force my insurance company to settle the case?

Robert’s Answer:  The simple answer is “No.”  Your auto insurance policy probably provides that your insurance company has exclusive control over the handling of any lawsuit that is brought against you.  This is because the insurance company is ultimately responsible for paying for your legal defense as well as any judgment that may be entered.

However, your insurance company is only responsible for paying any judgment up to your policy limits.  Any judgment amount in excess of your policy limits is technically your responsibility.  That is why most insurance companies are very concerned when they have to defend a case that has a good chance of exceeding your policy limits.  Therefore, as a practical matter, they try to settle those claims before they get to trial since the insurance company might be responsible for any excess judgment in the event it is later shown that they mishandled the claim or defense.

While it is perfectly understandable that you express your concern to your insurance adjuster, your cannot legally force them to settle the claim if they choose not to.  My recommendation is that you just cooperate with your insurance company throughout the defense.  Your insurance company is very experienced in these matters and knows how to handle your case.  At the same time, just be aware that there are practical concerns on both sides of the case that usually lead the parties toward settlement.

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