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Can I Find out the Defendant's Policy Limit?

You were injured in an accident in California and your medical bills are piling up fast. An ambulance bill...an emergency room bill...x-rays. You may want to see an orthopedist, or get physical therapy or chiropractic care.

You are concerned that the person at fault may not have enough insurance to cover your medical bills, so that you'll be left having to pay the bills out of your own pocket.

Whether you were bitten by a dog, or you were injured in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, or slipped and fell on someone else's property, this is a legitimate concern.

CAN YOU FIND OUT THE DEFENDANT'S POLICY LIMIT?

The answer depends on whether you've filed a lawsuit yet.

After You File a Lawsuit

After you file a lawsuit, your personal injury attorney will serve the defendant with a document called "Form Interrogatories." These are questions which the defendant must answer in writing under oath. One of the questions, Form Interrogatory 4.1, asks whether at the time of the accident, the defendant had any insurance which might cover your injury claim. In answering the interrogatory, the defendant must disclose all insurance policies which might apply to your injury claim, including umbrella policies, and each policy's limit.

Before You File a Lawsuit

Before you file a lawsuit, the defendant has no duty to disclose to you or your personal injury attorney the amount of his policy limit. Only if the defendant authorizes it can his insurance adjuster disclose the amount of the policy limit. Sometimes the defendant authorizes disclosure, sometimes the defendant doesn't.

If the medical bills you have submitted to the insurance company are low and the defendant's policy limit is high, there's a good chance the defendant won't authorize disclosure, fearing that if you find out there's plenty of insurance, you'll just build up more medical bills.

However, if you have submitted a substantial amount of medical bills to the insurance company, and the defendant has a low policy limit, and your claim is clearly worth more than the policy limit, than the insurance company will likely disclose the policy limit.

MY SUGGESTION

Aggressively seek to find out the defendant's policy limit. Gather up all of your medical records and bills, and documentation of any lost wages, and submit the documentation to the defendant's insurance company, with a letter demanding immediate disclosure of the policy limit. That will trigger the insurance company sending a letter to the defendant asking if he wants to disclose the policy limit. This will get the ball rolling. If more medical bills and reports are generated, keep funneling them to the adjuster. The more documentation of your injury that you provide to the adjuster, the more likely the policy limit will be disclosed.

If you have a personal injury attorney, ask your attorney if he has requested disclosure of the defendant's policy limit. If the answer is no, ask why not. Too many times, I've taken over personal injury cases from prior attorneys who made no attempt to find out the defendant's policy limit. Often times, the attorney referred the client for expensive medical tests, without regard to the policy limit. It's the client who suffers in this case, not the attorney. The client is the one on the hook for the medical bills. And know this: even if your medical treatment was rendered on a lien basis, you are still on the hook for those bills, regardless of the outcome of your case. If it turns out there's not enough insurance to pay all of your medical bills, you are still legally obligated to pay them.

BOTTOM LINE

You don't want to end up with more medical bills than there is insurance to cover them. You need an aggressive California personal injury lawyer who will use all ammunition to find out the defendant's policy limit.

For a free consultation or second opinion on your personal injury case, call our Los Angeles attorneys, McGee, Lerer and Associates: (800) 999-9948.