How Car Accident Insurance Settlements Are Divided Among Multiple Victims

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  • In Georgia car accidents with multiple victims, the insurance money available under the at-fault driver(s) policy limits may sometimes not be enough to fully compensate each claimant.
  • Accident victims may sometimes end up competing for limited insurance policy limits.
  • Limited insurance funds are often, but not always, divided according to each victim’s injuries and costs.
  • Car accident victims may be able to get compensation beyond the liability policy limit through under-insured motorist coverage, third-party claims, or insurance bad faith.

When a Georgia or Atlanta area car accident involves only one at-fault driver and one victim, negotiating a settlement with the insurance company can be fairly straightforward. However, some types of collisions involve more than one driver or more than one injury victim.  This can mean that the amount of insurance available to cover the victim’s costs may not be enough, or that victims may have to make claims with more than one insurance carrier to get compensation.

To make matters more challenging, Georgia auto insurance liability policies have limits, both per person and per accident.  Often this requires that the parties in the settlement negotiations must try to reach an agreement about
how the limited funds should be divided among the injured victims.  Or, in some cases, this can cause a race to the court house, where the first victim to reach trial may receive more of the available insurance than the others.

What Funds Are Available to Compensate Victims?

When you have been injured in a car accident, the first step is usually to file a claim with the at fault driver’s insurance carrier under their liability policy. If you can prove the driver’s negligence caused your injuries and have documentation detailing your losses, the insurance carrier may responsible to pay a settlement or verdict, up to the amount of available insurance – known as the policy limit.  

Depending on the type of accident, there may be more than one driver to blame. Because Georgia is a comparative negligence state, each driver is liable for their role in the accident. For example, if driver A was 70 percent responsible and driver B was 30 percent to blame, their respective drivers or their insurance carriers may pay damages based on their percentage of liability.

In Georgia, the minimum amount of liability insurance a driver must carry is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.  Georgia’s property damage minimum limits are $25,000/$50,000 per accident. Thus, if you were the only victim in a car accident involving one at-fault driver with minimum coverage, the applicable policy limit for your  injuries will be $25,000.

When there are multiple drivers to blame for the accident, it may be possible to recover under more than one insurance policy.  This is often proportionate to the amount of fault assigned to each driver and the amount of each insurance policy.  For example, if you were the only victim in an accident with two equally at-fault drivers with minimum coverage, there would be $50,000.00 of liability insurance available to cover your losses.  The at-fault drivers’ insurance carriers would pay based on their insureds’ percentage of fault.

In accidents with multiple victims, there can sometimes be less money available for each victim because there are more people to be paid under the same policy limit.  For example, in a car accident in which three people were hurt by one at-fault driver, the Georgia minimum limit allows payment up to $25,000 per person, but just $50,000 per accident.  In this case everyone cannot receive policy limits because $75,000 exceeds the total per-accident coverage of $50,000.

In such cases, this can mean that some or all of the victims may not get full compensation – even if the injuries are severe – because the carrier must only pay up to the per-accident limit.

In cases where there is not enough liability insurance to go around, many drivers have insurance policies that include under-insured motorist coverage (also known as UIM or uninsured motorist coverage).  Georgia UM policies can cover individual accident injury victims over and above the available liability insurance limits, or when the at-fault driver does not have car, truck or motorcycle insurance.  higher liability caps, so there would be more funds available to split up among victims. 

An experienced lawyer can help you identify all the insurance policies available to you after an accident.  In addition, an injury lawyer may also be able to help you discover whether a third-party may also be responsible for part or all of your damages.  Examples of third-party liability can be cases against a bar or restaurant that over-served a drunk driver, products liability cases for automobile defects such as malfunctioning airbags or seatbelts, claims against a driver’s employer or broker, or excess claims against one or more insurance companies for bad faith.

What Compensation Can Each Victim Expect to Recover?

When you are injured in an accident, in theory you are entitled to recover all economic and noneconomic costs related to the collision. Economic costs include lost income, medical bills, surgery, ambulance rides, physical therapy, and any ongoing related expenses. Noneconomic costs are items such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of consortium, and changes to your lifestyle.

Victims should demand all costs associated with the accident, and the insurance carrier should consider all evidence and documentation each victim provides. In crashes with multiple victims, the carrier will consider each victim’s claim separately and make a settlement offer based on the severity of injuries and related costs.  Full compensation is not automatic.  If one victim provides more or better documentation and evidence supporting their injury and economic losses than another, it is very possible the insurance company may offer more money to the victim who demonstrated greater injuries and losses.

How Are the Funds Divided and Distributed?

Ideally, every car accident victim would be fully compensated for their costs. As discussed above, however, when there are limited insurance funds available, everyone may not receive full compensation.  In situations, the big question becomes, how is the insurance money divided between different victims?

Generally, insurance companies will try to find a way to distribute the money equitably and may try to reach a global agreement with all of the injured victims.  Often this means that the victims with the most severe injuries and medical expenses get paid a proportionately larger amount of the available insurance limits.  However, this is not required by law, and insurance companies have the legal right to divide the insurance proceeds as the company or adjuster decides.  

When multiple victims are competing for limited funds, we think it is best to retain an experienced attorney to negotiate with the insurance carrier and the other victims, so that your claim is given priority.

Our No-Fee-Unless-We-Win Law Firm Can Help

At The Millar Law Firm, we have been representing injured car accident victims since 1993. If you have been injured in a car accident, our attorneys can answer any questions you may have about compensation. Even if you’re unsure whether you need to hire an attorney, we can answer your questions answered via email or by calling The Millar Law Firm at (770) 400-0000.

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