Whether it’s a car accident on I-215 or a slip and fall in Downtown Salt Lake, accidents can happen just about anywhere in our beautiful state. You might be wondering if you need a Utah personal injury attorney and if there’s an amount a personal injury accident claim can’t exceed. Will all of your bills be taken care of?
When someone else’s negligence causes your injuries, you shouldn’t be made to pay the price. After an accident, you’ve got a lot on your mind, including doctor’s visits, repairs to personal property, and so much more. The personal injury attorneys at Harris, Preston, & Chambers have worked with clients across the state of Utah. They can help you keep track of medical bills, negotiate with the insurance, and more so you can focus on healing.
Read on to learn more about the amount a personal injury accident claim can’t exceed, damage caps, and whether or not you can claim excess damages.
What’s a Damage Cap?
A damage cap limits the amount of money that can be recovered in a personal injury accident claim. The amount a personal injury accident claim can’t exceed varies by state. Some states do not have a damage cap. For example, in Wyoming, there is no limit on the amount that can be compensated in a personal injury claim. In the state of Utah, the damage cap is $450,000. However, this is only for medical malpractice claims. For other types of personal injury claims, there is no damage cap.
How Insurance Policy Limits Work
Although damage caps only affect medical malpractice cases, a personal injury accident will also be affected by insurance policy limits. When someone purchases liability insurance of any kind, they will have a policy limit. In case of an accident, the insurance would be responsible to pay up to the policy limit. For example, if the policy limit is $50,000, the insurance company would pay up to $50,000 for the accident. If there were $75,000 worth of damages, the insurance company would not pay the remaining $25,000.
What Happens When a Car Accident Claim Exceeds Insurance Limits?
Utah is a no-fault state. This means that no matter the cause of the car accident, you will be compensated by your own car insurance for up to $3000 in medical expenses. If the car accident caused $3000 or more in medical expenses for you, you can file a claim against the at-fault driver. At that point, the at-fault driver’s insurance would be responsible for your compensation. But what happens if the car accident claim exceeds the at-fault driver’s insurance limits?
No matter what the judge rules, the insurance company won’t pay beyond the policy limit. If the damages in your car accident claim go beyond the insurance policy, you may be able to collect excess damages. This can be difficult to achieve, but it’s not impossible.
Can You Collect Excess Damages?
If the damages in your personal injury claim exceed the insurance policy limit, you can collect excess damages. It isn’t easy to accomplish, but in some cases, it’s worth the extra effort to be compensated for your losses.
There are three ways you might go about collecting excess damages once the insurance has paid out the policy limit:
- Suing multiple defendants
- Trying to collect from the defendant personally
- Recovering compensation from an umbrella policy
Suing Multiple Defendants
If more than one party is responsible for the accident, you may be able to sue multiple defendants. When this is the case, the defendants would be “jointly and severally” liable for the entire amount of damages. For example, if both responsible parties had a policy limit of $50,000, they would be able to fully pay $100,000 in damages.
Some other examples of cases where it’s possible to sue multiple defendants include:
- Medical malpractice: If both the doctor and the hospital were responsible for your negligent treatment, you may be able to sue both.
- Product liability: In cases where a defective product caused you harm, you may be able to sue both the manufacturer and the distributor.
- Vicarious liability: In cases where the at-fault party was acting on behalf of someone else, such as an employer, you may be able to sue the employer in addition to the at-fault party.
Collecting from the Defendant
If the insurance policy limit has been reached, another option to recover your losses is to collect from the defendant personally. In this case, a judge may order wage garnishment or a lien on the defendant’s property. However, if the defendant doesn’t have any money or assets, it’s virtually impossible to collect.
An umbrella policy is secondary insurance that goes over other insurance policies. It’s very common for corporations and large businesses to have umbrella policies. Some individuals also carry umbrella policies. In cases where the damages exceed the policy limit of the first insurance, the umbrella policy will kick in.
For example, let’s say the damages in your accident equal $75,000. If the at-fault party’s liability policy limit was $50,000 and the umbrella policy limit was $25,000, the liability insurance would pay $50,000 and their umbrella policy would contribute the remaining $25,000.
How Long After a Car Accident Can You File an Injury Claim in Utah?
A statute of limitations is a time limit for starting legal proceedings. Every state has different statutes of limitations when it comes to personal injury and car accident claims.
In the state of Utah, you have up to four years after the date of the car accident to file a personal injury claim. However, if your loved one died as a result of the car accident and you’re filing a wrongful death suit, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the car accident.
Even though you have time to file a car accident injury claim, the best thing you can do is file your claim as early as possible. A personal injury attorney can help you keep track of deadlines and properly prepare and file your claim.
Can You Claim a Car Accident Without a Police Report?
Yes, you can file a car accident claim without a police report. However, this is generally for minor accidents where no one was hurt. In the state of Utah, if there are injuries, fatalities, or property damage over $1000, you are legally required to inform the police.
If the car accident is minor enough that police presence isn’t required, make sure to document the accident, keeping track of info such as the date, time, and location of the accident as well as all the contact info of each of the involved parties.
If anyone has been injured as a result of the car accident, you’ll want to call the police to the scene as soon as possible. You can obtain a copy of the police report afterward.
How an Accident Claim Attorney Can Help throughout the Process
Personal injury laws exist to protect you from the negligence of others. You may be tempted to handle all of the ins and outs of insurance on your own, but personal injury claims can get complicated. There are all the medical bills to keep track of, the police report to acquire, and the details of the accident to document. Not to mention, you’re still trying to heal from all of your injuries.
That’s where an experienced accident claim attorney like Harris, Preston, & Chambers can help. We’ll keep track of all records related to the accident, acquire evidence, and negotiate with the insurance so you don’t have to. We’ll help you present the strongest case possible and do our best to get you the compensation you deserve.
When the damages are high, you may be worried about being left to pay for a portion of your bills. In many cases, personal injury accident claims can’t exceed the policy limit of the at-fault party’s insurance. However, the lawyers of Harris, Preston, & Chambers will help you manage suing multiple defendants, suing the defendant personally, or ensuring that the umbrella policy kicks in. We’ll do our best to help you recover your losses so you can focus on healing. We serve all of Utah including Ogden, Salt Lake, and St George.