If you get hurt in a car accident in or around the metro-east St. Louis area, you have a lot of options for attorneys. From billboards to late-night TV ads, our region is bombarded with lawyers claiming to “get you big money” or “get cash now.” But the truth is, no lawyer can promise to get you money, certainly not quickly. It’s all frankly very dependent on the nature of your case and a lot of factors that no one can predict.
That said, at Jerome, Lindsay & Salmi, LLP, we try to make the most out of every case. When you meet with us about an injury, we dig into the details to get a true picture of what’s going on, and we look for ways to expedite where we can. One type of case that often will take longer is the multi-party injury claim. Here’s why this last longer.
What is a Multi-Party Claim?
When there is more than one injured person in an accident, you have a multi-party claim. This can happen in several ways:
- Car accident with an injured driver and passengers
- Car accident with multiple vehicles
- Motorcycle crash with an injured rider and passenger
- Accidents involving passenger vehicles, like buses and taxis
- Catastrophic structural collapses and construction site injuries
What Happens When There Are Multiple Injured People?
When an insurance company first learns that its insured policyholder has caused an accident, the first thing the insurance company does is set up a claim. The assigned adjuster will next begin trying to contact everyone involved to gather information. The number-one priority is to get someone else (anyone else) to admit fault or say they aren’t hurt. If the other people involved waive their claims, sign releases, or admit to being partially to blame, this might give the insurance company a legal reason to refuse to pay or shift the blame. At a minimum, they may be able to reduce or limit their exposure.
How Insurance Policies Work
If you take a close look at your car insurance policy in Illinois or Missouri, you will notice that for bodily injury liability protection, you have two different numbers listed (e.g. $25,000 / $50,000 or $50,000 / $100,000 and so forth). Let’s assume for a moment that someone carries the Illinois minimum. Here’s how to read these numbers:
- $25,000 per person. This first number means that the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay up to $25,000 per injured individual in a crash.
- $50,000 per occurrence. This second number means that the insurance company will cap or limit the total amount of payments to $50,000 for the whole entire event.
Let’s say 3 people are hurt in a wreck. The at-fault driver has a $25,000 / $50,000 policy. The insurance company now has to accomplish three things with these funds. First, they must figure out how bad all the injuries are. Second, they must use a degree of caution to make sure they do not leave their policyholder exposed to unnecessary liability or judgment. Finally, they need to secure releases from everyone, if possible. This is the insurance company playbook.
How Does an Insurance Company Spread Out the Money?
In our scenario above, let’s assume for a moment that one of the injured people suffers from a catastrophic injury with over $25,000 in medical bills. The insurance company may recognize that he or she deserves to receive a lot more money, but under the policy, the insurance company has no legal obligation to pay anything beyond $25,000. So, they will probably issue payment for that individual in the amount of $25,000, but only if neither of the other people are seriously hurt.
If the other people do have serious injuries, then the insurance company will attempt to apportion the compensation equitably and in pro rata shares, based on medical expenses and severity of injuries. Otherwise, they may protect their insured with respect to one injury, but leave them exposed on another front.
Why All This Causes Delays
You may have hired a great attorney, and you may have completed treatment, submitted a demand, and placed your claim at the front of the line, but the insurance company is not going to want to make any payments until the other injured parties provide the necessary information in order to assess what respective share they should receive. Therefore, you may get stuck waiting a long time, especially if the other people in the crash have lazy lawyers, no lawyers, or simply can’t be located.
Getting Around the Delays
One quick way to get this resolved is to file a lawsuit, thereby putting the matter before a judge. Assuming, of course, that there is no dispute over liability, the insurance company will usually file a specific type of court document that allows them to “tender” payment of the full $50,000, but asks the judge to determine who should receive what shares. This is commonly known as Interpleader. In both Missouri and Illinois, an attorney can get this type of action filed, notify all injured parties who have a legal right to payment, then ask a judge to divide the proceeds of insurance equitably. Those who have an aggressive and competent attorney will generally fair better.
When waiting around for money indefinitely is not an option, call Jerome, Lindsay & Salmi, LLP to speak with one of our Illinois or Missouri car wreck lawyers today. We never charge for a consultation, and we don’t set arbitrary time limits on meetings with prospective clients. If you’ve suffered serious injuries in a car accident, we think you’ll find us a perfect fit. We tend to be a bit more selective than some attorneys out there, but that’s a good thing. It means we can give you more individualized attention. It also means we don’t waste time with frivolous or silly claims. We help people rebuild their lives after tragedies. Call and speak with an attorney to find out if we can help you as well.
by JAYE R. LINDSAY
One part combat veteran, one part former firefighter/EMT and truck driver, and 100% devoted to helping clients achieve the results they desire.
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