How Car Accident Settlements Are Divided Among Multiple Victims

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  • If you can prove the driver’s negligence caused your injuries and have documentation detailing your losses, the driver’s insurance carrier has an obligation to compensate you for costs up to the liability policy limit.
  • When there are multiple drivers to blame for the accident, the total amount of funds expands because more than one insurance policy is available to compensate injured victims.
  • In accidents with multiple victims, the insurance money available under the at-fault driver(s) policy limits may not be enough to fully compensate each claimant, so the funds are divided according to each victim’s injuries and costs.
  • Car accident victims may be able to get compensation beyond the policy limit if the court finds that the insurance carrier acted in bad faith when denying the claimant’s demand.

When a car accident involves only one at-fault driver and one victim, negotiating a settlement to
recover costs with the insurance company can be fairly straightforward. However, some types of
collisions involve more than one driver who was responsible, which usually means you will have
to file a claim with more than one insurance carrier to get compensation.

In certain accidents, such as a multi-car pileup on the interstate, you may be one of several
injured victims filing a claim against one or more at-fault drivers’ insurance companies.
Generally, having more people involved on both sides of the negotiation table means that
settlement discussions can go in different directions and become much more complex.

An additional challenge is that auto insurance liability policies have limits, both per person and
per accident, so the parties in the settlement negotiations must try to reach an agreement about
how limited funds should be divided among the injured victims.

What Funds Are Available to Compensate Victims?

When you have been injured in a car accident, your 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 has an obligation to compensate you for costs up to the driver’s 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 insurance carriers should pay damages based on their insured’s percentage of liability.

If your injuries are severe or you have a loved one who was killed in an accident, your losses
may exceed insurance policy limits. In Georgia, the minimum amount of liability insurance a
driver must carry is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident (property damage minimum is
$25,000 per accident). Thus, if you were the only victim in a car accident involving one at-fault
driver with minimum coverage, the most compensation you could receive for your injuries is
$25,000.

When there are multiple drivers to blame for the accident, the total amount of funds expands
because more than one insurance policy is available to compensate injured victims. For example,
if you were the only victim in an accident with two at-fault drivers with minimum coverage,
there would be $50,000 available to cover your losses, and the drivers’ insurance carriers would
pay based on their insureds’ percentage of fault.

In accidents with multiple victims, there is less money available because there are more people to
split it up. If you were involved in a car accident in which three people were hurt by one at-fault
driver, for example, the minimum limit allows payment up to $25,000 per person, but everyone
can’t get that full amount as a settlement because $75,000 exceeds the total per-accident
coverage of $50,000. That means that some or all of the victims may not get full compensation if
they have high costs because the carrier must only pay up to the per-accident limit.

Of course, many drivers have insurance policies with higher liability caps, so there would be
more funds available to split up among victims. Some drivers also have an “umbrella” policy,
which provides additional liability coverage in excess of the driver’s primary policy limit. This
additional coverage can compensate multiple victims or single victims with serious, costly
injuries that exceed the primary policy’s limit.

In situations where the at-fault driver(s) insurance policies don’t provide enough money to fully
cover your costs, you can file a claim with your own underinsured or uninsured motorist
insurance policy (or, if you were a passenger in a car where the driver was not at fault for the
accident, you can file under your driver’s underinsured or uninsured policy). An experienced
lawyer can help you identify all the insurance policies available to you after an accident so that
you can be made whole.

Can Victims Get Compensation Beyond the Insurance Policy Limit(s)?

Because insurance carriers have a duty to protect their insured driver, they are obligated to pay
the full cost of the accident caused by that driver up to the liability policy limit. If liability is
clear and the victim(s) can prove their costs, the carrier must settle their claims in good faith.
Assuming the proven costs don’t exceed the policy limit, a carrier who refuses to pay full
damages without a reasonable defense is acting in bad faith.

For example, in a situation where someone is killed because of the negligence of an at-fault
driver, the attorney representing the victim’s family would likely send a demand for the full
policy limit, whether that limit is $25,000 or $100,000. The demand letter would be accompanied
by a package of information proving fault and costs, such as police reports, medical records,
documentation of related expenses and lost future income, and more.

This demand would also include language pointing out that the carrier has a duty to act in the
best interest of the insured and consider all the evidence provided. If the carrier then refuses to
exhaust the policy limit to pay the claim, the attorney could file a lawsuit alleging that the
company acted in bad faith.

Because this lawsuit would be filed against the carrier and the insured personally, the insured
driver would have a claim against their insurance company for not protecting them (the insured
usually assigns this claim to the victim to avoid losing their personal assets). If the court finds
that the insurance company acted in bad faith, the judge or jury can award damages far beyond
the policy limit and the carrier would likely have to pay this amount.

In the above example, a claim that the carrier could have settled for $100,000 may end up
costing it $1 million because it acted in bad faith in refusing to exhaust the policy limit. In other
words, the carrier isn’t obligated to pay beyond the policy limit as a settlement, but it does have
to pay more when a lawsuit is filed and bad faith is shown. Thus, the short answer to the titled
question is yes, but only if the insurance carrier acted in bad faith.

What Costs Can Each Victim Expect to Recover?

When you are injured in an accident, 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 must
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. If one victim provides enough documentation to prove their
injury costs and another does not, the insurance company will usually pay more money to the
victim who proved their losses.

How Are the Funds Divided and Distributed?

Ideally, every car accident victim would be fully compensated for their costs. As discussed
above, however, there are limited insurance funds available to pay these victims, so everyone
may not get full coverage. In situations where there aren’t enough funds to go around, the big
question becomes, how is the insurance money divided between different victims?

Generally, insurance companies try to find a way to distribute the money equitably, which means
that the victims with the most severe injuries and medical expenses get paid more. Severe
injuries may include broken bones, paralysis or other permanent conditions, and even death.
Injuries considered less serious may include whiplash or soft-tissue problems that only require a
few doctors’ visits.

For example, a car accident involves person A, who has incurred $20,000 in medical bills, and
person B, who has incurred $100,000, and the at-fault driver’s policy will only cover $100,000
total. How is the money divided?

There are no clear-cut answers in this scenario because the insurance carrier must make the
decision about how to split up the funds based on its own evaluation of each victim’s claim. The
carrier will consider the severity of the victim’s injuries and their related expenses to decide. As
long as it reaches its decision in good faith, the insurance carrier can give all the funds to the
more injured victim or only give a small amount to the other victim.

When multiple victims are jockeying for limited funds, experienced attorneys are usually needed
to negotiate with the insurance carrier so your claim is given priority. When there are multiple at-
fault drivers and victims involved, things get even more difficult because the insurance carriers
must negotiate amongst themselves to apportion liability and then negotiate a settlement
agreement with each victim (and their respective attorneys).

To simplify the process, insurance companies often ask that all parties and their attorneys
participate in a “global” settlement conference with the carrier’s attorneys. During this
conference, the attorneys negotiate the best way to divide the applicable policy limits among the
victims.

If the parties agree to a settlement, it is typically a pro rata distribution based on each claimant’s
medical bills and related costs. For example, if victim A’s medical bills total 50 percent of the
total medical bills of all parties, then victim A would receive 50 percent of the coverage amount.
What if an accident involves many victims, but only a few have come forward to make a
claim for their injuries? Must the insurance company wait to settle those claims or set aside
some of the money for other potential victims who haven’t yet filed?

Though the insurance carrier may investigate to look for other potential claimants after an
accident, it remains obligated to settle the claims of known victims—even if that means no
money is left to pay later claimants under the policy. For this reason, you should hire an attorney
to pursue your claim as soon as possible when multiple victims are involved. Otherwise, the
policy limit may be exhausted by the time you file for compensation.

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, you can get
your questions answered via email or by calling The Millar Law Firm at (770) 400-0000.

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