Barry: There are two basic places where you’re going to look. One of these is at additional levels of insurance coverage. The others that you’re going to be looking at, additional defendants to bring in to the case.
Pam: How do you go about identifying additional sources of insurance?
Barry: There are a few different ways that you handle that. One thing that we look at when there’s a significant injury, is whether or not there’s an umbrella policy available. There are processes that are available for your primary level of insurance to be disclosed by the insurance company. But, they aren’t really required to disclose umbrella policies. One of the things that we require in our office, when we’re setting a case where the primary level of insurance coverage isn’t going to be enough to really compensate the client, is we demand that the defendant, the at-fault driver, provide us with an affidavit establishing that there is no other insurance coverage available, including umbrella policies.
An umbrella policy would be policy that covers levels above and in excess of their primary policy. That’s something that is very effective in making sure that we’ve investigated that issue thoroughly, and in some cases, that’s actually triggered additional levels of coverage that we weren’t aware of to begin with.
Past that, the other place that we go looking for is an employer’s policy. Now, if you are driving your car, doing something that’s employment related, and you get into an accident, your employer’s also going to be responsible for any kind of injuries that you may have caused. There have been a number of cases where on the surface, the person who’s driving the car, didn’t have enough insurance to cover my client’s injuries, but after we got digging into the case, we found out that the person who was driving was doing something employment related, and that triggered additional levels of insurance.
Just to give you an example, we were representing a lady who was actually crossing the street in a wheelchair, and she was hit by a car. She suffered a number of fractures and really pretty significant, serious injuries. The woman who was driving the car had a grand total of $100,000.00 worth of coverage through her insurance policy with Allstate, but she was also a pharmaceutical sales rep, and she was on her way to a call at a doctor’s office. That triggered the insurance policy for the pharmaceutical company, which I think it was $25,000,000.00. There was an enormous amount of coverage that was available above and beyond the primary policy that the driver had. Eventually, that resulted in the client getting well in excess of $100,000.00 more in compensation for the injuries that she suffered from getting hit by a car. If we hadn’t done that level of investigation, the client would have not received nearly enough money to compensate her fairly for the kind of injuries that she suffered.
Another unexpected place where we’ve been able to find additional levels of coverage is when somebody’s driving a loaner car. Take for example, you bring your car into get fixed at the dealership. They give you a loaner car to drive around. The law in Illinois is that the insurance tracks the vehicle. The fact that you’re driving a car that belongs to the car dealership, means that the car dealership’s insurance should apply, notwithstanding anything that you may have said about my insurance will cover this. Typically, those policies that are going to be issued to car dealerships are going to be much larger policies that you yourself will have, and can provide additional levels of compensation for people who get hit by people who are driving these loaner cars.
Pam: Barry, when you’re talking about additional defendants, what exactly are you talking about?
Barry: There’s really two different sources that we’re talking about. Number one is in the employment situation. You can actually bring the employer in as an additional defendant in the case. If you get into a car accident while you’re driving for work, your employer can be brought into the lawsuit. Past that, the second place that we really look is associated with the vehicle itself.
Pam: Then how can the vehicles involved be an issue when there are serious injuries?
Barry: There’s really two different ways. One deals with the issue of the repair of the vehicle. If a car had been brought in for repairs, sometime shortly before an accident occurred, and there was problem with how things were repaired, or they weren’t repaired in a proper kind of way, that certainly can be a reasonable subject of investigation, and if whoever did the repairs did a bad job of repairing it, or the repairs failed for whatever reason, that certainly could be an issue in the case.