Former Insurance Defense Attorney on How to Avoid Small Settlements in CA

UPDATED: Jul 13, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Mary Martin

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Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

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UPDATED: Jul 13, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 13, 2023Fact Checked

Barry J. Simon, a former insurance defense attorney who has spent nearly the past 30 years as a tort litigator representing victims against insurance and other large companies, explained how you can avoid small settlements and protect yourself against drivers who carry too little insurance – or no insurance at all.

Avoid small settlements

Car accident victims can take action to avoid small settlements, according to Simon, who told us:

I always recommend to someone who gets in an accident they go to see a doctor if they are hurt and call an attorney immediately because insurance companies try to take advantage of people, take their recorded statement without a lawyer, pin them down on facts that maybe they didn’t mean to say and then try to offer them a small amount of money.

Protect yourself against underinsured & uninsured drivers

Prop 213, California’s Financial Responsibility Law, requires drivers to carry liability insurance in order to recover pain and suffering or general damages. While there is a minimum coverage amount, Simon told us that he recommends carrying more:

I always recommend people carry a large policy, not the minimum (15/30) because it doesn’t cost much more. Insurance companies won’t tell you this, but it doesn’t cost much more to have at least 100/300 liability and uninsured motorist policy and preferably higher (such as 500,000 single limit). This protects you in case of a serious injury or in case you cause somebody else serious injury.

Everyone should have liability insurance and uninsured motorist insurance, which also covers you if the driver that hits you is under insured. I get a lot of calls about people that really weren’t hurt, but they have property damage. In those cases, I give them free advice, but I don’t take the case unless they are significantly hurt. A lot of people ask me why can’t I pursue the claim because they could have been killed, but you have to have actual damages to sue somebody, not speculative damages.

Have you been injured?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact an experienced auto accident lawyer to discuss your situation. However, keep in mind that there’s a two-year Statute of Limitations to file an auto accident lawsuit if you’re going to litigate – and that also applies to wrongful death actions.

Case Studies: Avoiding Small Settlements and Protecting Against Underinsured Drivers

Case Study 1: Immediate Legal Representation

John was involved in a car accident and decided to seek legal representation right away. By doing so, he avoided falling into the insurance company’s tactics of taking advantage of accident victims. With the guidance of his attorney, John was able to navigate the claims process more effectively and secure a fair settlement. This case emphasizes the importance of seeking legal advice promptly after an accident to avoid being pressured into accepting small settlements.

Case Study 2: Carrying Sufficient Insurance Coverage

Sarah, aware of California’s Financial Responsibility Law, carried more than the minimum liability insurance coverage. When she was involved in a severe accident caused by an underinsured driver, her higher coverage protected her and ensured she could recover damages for her injuries. This case highlights the significance of carrying adequate liability and uninsured motorist coverage to safeguard against the risks posed by underinsured drivers.

Case Study 3: Understanding Actual Damages

Mary was involved in a minor car accident that resulted in property damage but no significant injuries. Although she expressed concerns about potential future damages, such as the possibility of severe injury, her attorney explained that legal action requires actual damages. This case underscores the importance of having measurable damages to pursue a claim and the need to differentiate between speculative and actual damages.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Get Legal Help Today

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