What happens when a stubborn millionaire gets behind the wheel while drunk or texts while driving and hits you, but only has minimal insurance coverage that doesn't even cover all your medical bills?
We don't think that's right and the courts don't either. That's why, in situations like these, your attorney can sue the other driver and go after "recreational assets," like large savings accounts, extra cars, fancy boats, or vacation homes.
Basically the court says if the at-fault driver has the extra money to own these things, they can pay for the damages they've caused you.
But because the courts also don't want everyone to go "lawsuit crazy," the process can be long and arduous, and we don't recommend trying it without an experienced North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer.
Suing for Damages Above Insurance Limits
Before your attorney can sue the at-fault driver for their assets, you must first go through litigation and a trial. If you win, and the jury awards a verdict in your favor, the insurance company will have to pay. However, the insurance company can only pay what it is under contract to pay (the policy limits), no more.
If a jury agrees that you should be awarded more than the insurance company's policy limits can pay, that award is known as an "excess verdict."
The excess verdict is what is owed to you above the limits the insurance company is contracted to pay.
Let's say, for example, the at-fault driver has a $100,000 policy limit contracted with their insurance company, but your damages total $170,000. The insurance can only pay up to $100,000. That additional $70,000 would fall under the "excess verdict" the jury awarded.
It is only with an excess verdict that you can sue for personal property to help bridge the gap between what the jury awarded you, and what the insurance company paid.
Fortunately, most people buy insurance policies with limits high enough to protect their personal assets. However, in the event of a serious injury, an attorney may seek an excess judgment if there isn't enough insurance available to cover current and future medical bills. This is particularly true if the at-fault party has significant assets that could be used to satisfy the judgment.
What Properties and Assets Can be Seized?
That being said, even if you are awarded an excess verdict, the at-fault driver has legal rights to protect certain property by claiming exemptions. Moreover, do not be deceived into thinking that just because you sue someone for their property, you will get paid right away. That would be too easy!
Exempt property must fall under certain legal definitions. It includes things like the primary home the at-fault driver owns and lives in, as well as their primary vehicle.
For other non-essential property, like a vacation home, the judgment must be filed in every county where the defendant owns real property. And because the at-fault driver cannot be forced to sell their real estate to pay you right away, that judgment must be renewed every 10 years.
The judgement gives you a lien on the property, and when it is voluntarily sold, then the judgment is paid. It is also worth noting that the judgment does not have priority. It is paid after other lienholders, such as the mortgage company.
If there are other assets that are easier to sell, like trucks, cars, or boats, then the local sheriff can execute the judgment and seize those assets. But you won't get the full amount of the proceeds. The sheriff is entitled to a percentage of what is made on the sale of those assets.
While each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits, you can undoubtedly begin to see why it can be prudent to work with a legal team experienced in personal injury litigation.
Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer received 3.5 times1 more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own.
Why Work With the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin?
While each case is different, having a lawyer who thoroughly understands and has experience dealing with North Carolina personal injury law can potentially go a long way toward your financial recovery efforts. So why choose us?
- We are one of the largest personal injury law firms in our part of the country.
- We have recovered over $600 million2 gross for more than 30,000 clients since 1997.
- We have more than 150 staff members, including over 35 attorneys.
- Several of our lawyers have achieved peer- and client-reviewed designations including Best Lawyers Best Lawyers in America 20173 and Lawyer of the Year 20174; and Super Lawyers Rising Star 20165 and Super Lawyer 20166.
But don't just take our word for it. Check out some of the things clients have to say about us.
Get FREE Case Evaluations From North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers
If your car wreck damages exceed the at-fault driver's insurance limits, we strongly urge you to contact us right now or call 1-866-900-7078. We will evaluate your situation for FREE over the phone or online - 24/7.
1 Insurance Research Council 1999
2 Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
3 Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey. Over 52,000 leading attorneys cast more than 5.5 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel Magazine has called Best Lawyers "the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice." For information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.bestlawyers.com
4 Only a single lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area is honored as the Lawyer of the Year, making this accolade particularly significant. Lawyers being honored as "Lawyer of the Year" are selected based on particularly impressive voting averages received during the exhaustive peer-review assessments conducted with thousands of leading lawyers each year. Receiving this designation reflects the high level of respect a lawyer has earned among other leading lawyers in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism, and their integrity. For information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.bestlawyers.com
5 To be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. Rising Stars undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state-by-state basis. While up to 5% of the lawyers in any state are named "Super Lawyers," by Super Lawyers magazine, no more than 2.5% are named to the Rising Stars list. For information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.superlawyers.com
6 Super Lawyers undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state-by-state basis. For information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.superlawyers.com