Am I financially responsible to pay the deficitfor property damage if the other party’s insurer accepted payment from my insurance?

I was involved in an auto accident to where I was found liable. My insurance covers $10K property damage and $15K/$30K personal injury. I have 2 insurance companies contacting me for the deficit in property damage, after my insurance has sent them settlement release forms. I was told that the release form discharges me from anything beyond what is offered by my insurance and they must sign the for to accept. Is this correct? Am I legally responsible to pay the difference?

Asked on November 7, 2011 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, if a party has some of its damages paid by insurance, that does not prevent it from suing for the balance of its damages. So, if you were at-fault in causing $20k of property damage, but your insurance policy only covers up to $10k, then--unless a release was signed--you could be liable for the other $10k. So the issue is not whether or not the other party received payment: the issue is whether they signed any release, and what the terms of that release were: e.g. it's possible the release only releases your *insurer* from any further liability or obligations, and, if so, that would not prevent the other party from proceeding against you personally.

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