Question: I was seriously injured in a car accident. The other driver’s insurance company has agreed to pay me a settlement up to the policy limits. However, it is not enough to fully compensate me. After I settle, can I then go after the other driver for the rest of my damages?
Robert’s Answer: Probably not. When you settle with the other driver’s insurance company, you will actually be settling with the other driver. If you do settle, the adjuster will require that you sign a full and final release as a condition to getting your money. If you refuse to sign the release, then the insurance company will not pay the settlement. That’s because the adjuster is settling the claim for the benefit of their driver. That is how liability insurance works.
You have to keep in mind that liability insurance is not there to protect you. It is there to protect the other driver in the event someone makes a liability claim against him after a car accident. In fact, if you do not settle with his insurance and choose to file a lawsuit against the other driver, his insurance company will hire an attorney to represent and defend him in your lawsuit.
When you are dealing with the other driver’s insurance adjuster, you are essentially dealing with his legal/claims representative. They have no duty to you whatsoever. Their only duty is to protect their policy holder from claims that others may have against him. If they chose to settle with you, that is only because they believe it is in the best interests of their driver to do so. That is why I never suggest that someone handle their own claim without a personal injury attorney.
If the liability insurance policy is not enough to fully compensate you, the you can make an under-insured motorist claim on your own auto policy. This is coverage you purchase in the event the other driver causes more damage or injury than his insurance can cover. But be very careful not to settle with the other driver’s insurance without first getting written permission to do so from your own insurance company. Otherwise, you might not be able to make a claim under your policy for additional benefits.