Pursing a Personal Injury Claim without an Attorney...
(Orlando, FL USA)
I suffered an injury after being rear ended in a car collision. I am coming to the close of my treatment and will be preparing a demand letter. I sought an initial consultation from an attorney and decided to wait a while before deciding if I really needed an attorney.
I have some minor legal experience as I have been a legal assistant before, so I want to go ahead and at least write the demand letter myself and see what happens from there.
There are two things I am concerned with or would like to get some advice on:
1) When I spoke with the attorney he mentioned something about finding out the insured individual's coverage limits. Can you tell me how to request this information? Can I just outright ask the adjuster to give me this info?
2) And secondly: Let's say I write my demand letter and I request a certain amount. The adjuster tries to offer me a totally inappropriate settlement. I decide to hire an attorney. At this point, is the amount I requested in my demand letter set, or will the attorney be able to raise it according to what he deems appropriate?
Thank you so much for your help.
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ANSWER for "Pursing a Personal Injury Claim without an Attorney...":
Revealing insurance policy limits in an insurance liability case is a legally sensitive issue. Your legal background will certainly help in understanding the application of the law in Florida as it relates to the disclosure of policy limits.
While the State of Florida does not have specific statutes addressing the issue of disclosure of insurance policy limits, the Florida Rules of Evidence provide limits are discoverable in pre-trial discovery. That of course is a mouthful so let’s try to break it down...
You ask if you can “outright ask” the adjuster to give you the policy limits of her insured. You can ask, but she does not have to reveal them to you. If she doesn’t however her employer insurance carrier may be placed in a tenuous position. Not revealing policy limits can result in “Bad Faith” litigation. The Florida case of Powell v. Prudential P&C Ins. Co., Fla. 584 So. 2d 12 addressed the limits disclosure issue clearly.
The facts included a car collision where a person was injured. The victim’s Attorney contacted the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The adjuster refused on several occasions to disclose limits. The victim’s Attorney said in a letter that in the spirit of settling without litigation she wanted to know policy limits. The Adjuster continued to refuse. Finally the lawyer filed suit.
The case went to trial and the jury awarded a verdict OVER 12 TIMES policy limits. That meant after her insurance company paid the limits the at-fault driver would be responsible for the remaining 11 times policy limits.
She was livid. She sued her own insurance company saying if you had just given policy limits when asked the lawsuit wouldn’t have happened and I wouldn’t be personally liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars over the policy limits.
The Court agreed with her saying her insurance company should have given policy limits when the lawyer asked, especially because the lawyer said her client would like to consider settling for the policy limits.
The answer to your second question is this: You are not bound by any demand you may have made to an insurance company at any time as long as you haven’t signed releases and cashed their check. Your Attorney can rescind that demand and begin anew as if you had never made it.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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