Typically, the insurance company will pay for the harms and losses caused by a car crash. An insurance company will also usually be who pays for injuries caused by falls, dog bites, dangerous products, defective drugs etc. Many people believe that if a lawsuit for injuries is filed against an individual, that specific individual will pay for the harms and losses. Most times, this simply isn’t true.
Let’s assume Driver A and Driver B are involved in a crash. Driver A ran a red light, caused the crash, and is therefore responsible for the harms and losses he caused. Assume for purposes of this example that Driver A carried proper insurance on his car at the time of the crash (which is required by Missouri and Illinois law). Driver B would most likely hire an Illinois or Missouri car crash lawyer and put Driver A’s insurance company on notice of the crash and request that the insurance company pay for Driver A’s harms and losses (injuries, medical bills, property damager, lost wages, pain and suffering etc.).

Sometimes, the insurance company simply doesn’t pay what justly compensates the injured. If Driver A’s insurance carrier doesn’t pay what will fairly compensate Driver B, Driver B may need to file a lawsuit. This is where a lot of people get confused. The lawsuit would not be filed against the insurance company in this situation. Instead, Missouri and Illinois law requires that Driver B file suit against Driver A directly. Of course, Driver A’s insurance company would then provide Driver A with an attorney. If Driver B is awarded an amount of money within Driver A’s policy limits, Driver A’s insurance carrier will pay that verdict – not Driver A.

This comes up frequently if the injured person is related or friends with the person at fault for the crash. Remember, you have to file suit against the driver or owner of the car but typically it is the insurance company that pays for the harms and losses caused. Why isn’t this made clear? Well, Illinois and Missouri rules of evidence do not allow attorneys to tell the jury about insurance coverage. Because of this, if you are on a jury, you will not hear that the defendant has insurance coverage for the crash, even if he does.

Some jurors think “I don’t think it is right that this lady is suing her own sister for her injuries”. Unfortunately, sometimes injured victims have no other choice but to sue family members and friends. If you are injured and your medical bills are not paid by the at-fault insurance carrier, you may have to file suit to get what you deserve. In Illinois and in Missouri, to do this, you have to file suit against the person, not the insurance company. As a St. Louis Missouri injury attorney, I have been involved in cases where it seemed clear that the insurance company was refusing to pay because the negligent party was related to the injured person. In such situtations, the insurance adjuster hopes that that injured party will refuse to file suit against a friend or family member and that the insurance company will then get away with paying nothing.

*This was originally published on The Legal Examiner, December 26, 2011


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