All too often as personal injury trial lawyers in Illinois, we learn that the maximum available insurance monies that a client may be entitled to under the applicable insurance policy is just not enough. All too often catastrophic injuries, or death, can occur due to the fault of another driver, a construction company, doctor or manufacturer and the damages can be enormous. Despite good liability and significant damages, oftentimes injured people are denied the fair, full and complete monetary compensation they deserve because there is simply insufficient monies available out of which to pay a fair settlement or satisfy a judgment. And it is so easy for some lawyers to just advise their client: "If the insurance company only has X dollars in coverage, that's all we can get for you."
The above, in many situations, is completely true. But prior to laying down and settling a case for less than the full value, a little creativity and aggressive laywering can help secure full and complete monetary justice for injured clients. Recently, GWC lawyers did just that in two different cases: the first such case involved an automobile driver who was killed in a head on collision when a pickup truck, pulling a horse trailer, crossed the center line and drove directly into the on-coming lane of traffic. The maximum insurance policy limits available were $250,000.00 plus a $1,000,000.00 umbrella policy. GWC partners, Louis Cairo and Michael Fisher, clearly knew that $1.25M was grossly inadequate to fairly compensate the family of the driver killed in the crash. However, the other driver had nominal assets and if the insurance company was agreeable to offer their full policy in good faith, then that would be the full extent of what the family would be able to collect.
The only way that they could get additional monies was if the insurance company negotiated in bad faith, failed to offer its full policy and then GWC wins the trial for an amount in excess of the policy limits. If that occurred, GWC would then be able to file a new lawsuit against the insurance company directly under a theory of Bad Faith. In essence, subjecting the responsible driver to the risk of having an excess judgment entered against her, rather than settling the case directly with the plaintiff's estate for an amount that was within the policy limits, subjected the insurance company to a bad faith claim that could be filed by its insured, the defendant driver. The theory is that if the insurance company is able to settle a case within its policy limits, it should not gamble with the financial assets of their insured. If they do, then the carrier is at risk that their insured client can sue the insurance company for the amount of the verdict that exceeded the applicable policy limits.