One of the most common questions our clients involved in auto accidents ask is how much their settlement is worth, and how often auto accident settlements exceed the policy limits in Texas.
The answer, like many questions asked about the law, is that it depends. While it is possible for a settlement to exceed the policy limits, it does not happen very often. There are complex rules about collecting personal injury settlements that exceed insurance policy limits that only an experienced auto accident attorney should handle.
For perspective on your case, schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney at the Milano Legal Group in Houston today.
Texas Auto Insurance Policy Limits
Texas law requires that all drivers maintain auto insurance on their vehicles that includes liability coverage in case of an accident. The minimum limits for liability coverage are $30,000 for bodily injury to a single person, $60,000 for bodily injury for any one accident, and $25,000 in property damage coverage.
It is possible to obtain more coverage than the minimum coverage amounts, but it is completely dependent on the driver. In a typical car accident case, an insurance company will pay up to the policy limits for their at fault driver in an accident. In order to collect more than the policy limits in an accident, the victim must go after the personal assets of the at fault party.
Civil Judgements for Accident Cases
For cases that exceed the policy limits in compensation, Texas law allows for a victim to go after the personal assets of the person at fault for the accident.
However, property is split into two categories: exempt and non-exempt assets, and civil judgements may only collect on non-exempt property.
Exempt property includes the primary residence, car, wages, vehicles and equipment used in that person’s trade, personal furnishings, some retirements accounts, and other items of property.
Non-exempt assets refer to items such as a vacation home, additional cars, certain retirement accounts, and a few other limited assets. As such, it can be difficult to collect compensation for settlements that go beyond the policy limits in an auto accident.
One exception to this rule is the Stowers doctrine. Under this rule, if your attorney offered a reasonable settlement within the policy limits that was rejected, and the court awards you with compensation beyond the policy limits, the person at fault for the accident can go after their own insurance company for the money owed to the victim beyond the auto policy limits.
These issues can get incredibly complex, so it is critical that you have a knowledgeable attorney by your side to ensure that you receive the full compensation owed for your injuries.