If I am found at fault in an auto accident and if am sued for anything my insurance didn’t cover, what would happen?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If I am found at fault in an auto accident and if am sued for anything my insurance didn’t cover, what would happen?

I got a scary letter in the mail saying to maybe consult an attorney from my car insurance. Over a year ago, I was in a car accident and found to be at fault. The other person’s ankle was broken he was on a motorcycle. My insurance said they will cover up to whatever amount which is pretty high but I’m terrified this person will come back and sue me for more. If I am sued and found to owe this person more money than my insurance provided, how would I pay this? I do not have much in savings. Would my wages be garnished? What are the rules around this?

Asked on November 4, 2016 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) If you were at fault, as you evidently were, and the other party is injured or suffers economic losses greater than he is paid by insurance--for example, greater than your insurance coverage--he can sue you personally for the balance over what he receives from insurance (i.e. for any amounts not paid by insurance).
2) If you are sued for more than your coverage and lose in court, so that there is a judgment against you to pay money, you in theory would have to pay it all at once, though it is likely the other side would agree to a reasonable payment plan.
3) If you are sued and lose and can't work it out with the other side and also can't pay, they could then garnish your wages, levy on (take money out of) any bank or brokerage account, execute on (have seized and sold) any valuable personal property (including vehicles) of yours they can identify, and even put a lien on real estate.
4) One important exception: if in accepting any money from your insurer they sign a settlement or release that the payment received is payment in full for the claim and/or otherwise that they cannot sue, that is enforceable; in that case, they will not then be able to sue you.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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