What happens when a lawsuit is for more than the policy limits?

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What happens when a lawsuit is for more than the policy limits?

My husband and I were involved in an auto accident (his fault). He passed away from complications. I was a passenger (I never had a license and am not on my husband’s insurance). The other parties are claiming more then his liability, can they sue me?

Asked on June 18, 2011 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

Joyce Sweinberg / Joyce J. Sweinberg

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am sorry to hear of your situation.  It is enough grief that you lost your husband; to have this added to your worries only increases your emotional burdens. The mere fact that someone claims more than the policy limits does not mean that they will pursue that to the end. More often than not, if the policy limits do not adequately cover someone's injuries, their attorney will make a claim against their underinsured motorist coverage of their auto policy, if they elected that type of coverage. No one wants to chase after the widow in a situation such as this, unless they have to by force of circumstances.  If you were injured in this accident, you may also have a claim against your husband's policy.  Feel free to call me if you wish to discuss your situation in more detail.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, yes, they may sue you for more than the policy limits. An insurance policy is for the protection of the insured; it provides a way to pay for claims (and lawyers), up to the limits of the policy the insured took out. It does not limit the rights of the injured party; the injured party may sue for whatever his or her actual damages (medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) are.

In this case, they would likely be suing not necessarily you particularly, but your husband's estate--which effectively means suing you. You should therefore consult with an attorney; if you believe they will sue for more than your policy limits, you wil have to defend yourself.


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