Every auto insurance policy has a “policy limit” — the maximum amount that the insurance company is obligated to pay regardless of the injuries you sustain in a wreck. Currently, Texas law requires that motorists have insurance with a policy limit of at least $30,000 (this new limit applies to policies purchased after January 1, 2011; there are still some active policies out there that were purchased before then with a limit of $25,000).
When you’re involved in an auto accident, it’s important to know the other driver’s policy limit. It affects the value of the case, whether there is enough insurance to cover your injuries, whether you need to get your own underinsured motorist insurance company involved, and much more.
Unfortunately, a number of insurance companies have made the ridiculous decision that they won’t tell victims of car wrecks the limits of the policy.
So how do you find that out?
We have several options that we use. Now, keep in mind that you shouldn’t take this as legal advice (and we’re not creating an attorney-client relationship here). Because every case is different, we’ve used a number of different tactics depending on the situation. Here are some of those:
1. SUE THE OTHER DRIVER. Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney will send a request for disclosure, and when the other side responds to that request, they will have to disclose the policy limits and give your lawyer a copy of the policy. Now you might be asking, “Isn’t that drastic just to get the policy limits?” I don’t think so. It’s my experience that if the insurance adjuster is already giving you a hard time about just telling you the policy limits, they’ll give you a hard time when it comes to valuing the claim. In those cases, negotiating with the adjuster is a waste of time. Save yourself the time and the effort, and get the lawsuit going. This is probably the route we use 90% of the time in this situation. (As an aside, the ability to get the limits in a lawsuit is one of the reasons this insurance company tactic drives me crazy. They all know that the information isn’t a secret and that we can get it once a suit is filed. Why the need to play games about it?)
2. SEND A DEMAND FOR THE POLICY LIMITS INCLUDING A REQUEST FOR PROOF OF THE LIMITS. For legal reasons beyond the scope of this post, when you make an offer to settle a claim for an amount within the other driver’s policy limits, it puts pressure on the insurance company to try and resolve the claim. One way to try to smoke out the policy limits is to prepare a demand package and offer to settle for the limits if they provide proof of the limits and that the other driver is “judgment proof” — meaning they don’t have any assets that they’d be able to use to pay any judgments against them.
3. CONTACT THE OTHER DRIVER. As long as the other driver isn’t represented by an attorney, you can contact the other driver. Write them or call them and tell them that you need to know their policy limits. You can tell them that they don’t have to disclose it to you, but that the alternative is to sue them and that once that happens their insurance company will be obgligated to disclose that information. You can tell them you want to avoid that, but them not telling you doesn’t leave you many other alternatives. Once they learn that, they are often willing to disclose their limits. This is often a last resort. You have no way to verify that the person is telling you the truth, and you don’t want to be accused of harassing the other side. But in some instances, this is a good alternative.
4. ASK YOUR UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED MOTORIST CARRIER IF THEY CAN REQUEST THE LIMITS. Some insurance companies won’t tell you the limits, but they’re willing to give the same information to your insurance company.
5. HIRE AN INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE. There are services out there that purport to be able to find insurance policies and their limits. In my experience, these companies have been moderately successful in finding insurance policies. But my theory is, why pay them their fee when you can file the lawsuit for a similar amount of money and get the lawsuit process started at the same time? But it is an option for those that don’t want to file suit.
These aren’t the only options to find the other driver’s policy limits, but they are the ones we’ve found to be most successful over the years.
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