If a car accident victim accepts an insurance settlement, they can’t sue you for more money later on. However, someone can pursue a personal injury lawsuit against an individual instead of an insurer. The most common reasons at-fault drivers face litigation is not having insurance or the insurance claim exceeding policy limits.
Most claims don’t go over policy limits. However, if they do, at-fault drivers should have an asset protection plan in place. That can include appropriate liability insurance and additional coverages. Otherwise, at-fault drivers risk financially devastating lawsuits.
Fortunately, Florida laws offer many ways to protect your assets after an at-fault accident. However, it’s up to you to take advantage of them. Continue reading to learn the importance of protecting your assets before and after at-fault collisions.
Can Someone Sue You After Your Insurance Pays?
Suppose a personal injury claimant accepts your insurance company’s settlement offer. In that case, they can no longer pursue damages against you or the insurer.
However, if you’re underinsured, a plaintiff and their auto accident attorney may decide that they can get more money by foregoing a personal injury settlement and taking you to court instead.
That’s why it’s essential to have adequate insurance coverage in place to decrease the likelihood of personal liability in the event of an at-fault accident.
How Do I Protect My Assets After a Car Accident?
A personal injury lawsuit has the potential to decimate your finances. With that in mind, there are legal and procedural steps that at-fault drivers can take to help protect assets. Generally, a seasoned car accident attorney is likely to recommend the following:
- Talk with your insurer to learn if the personal injury claim is expected to exceed your policy limits.
- Learn what assets Florida law protects if the injured party decides to file a lawsuit against you.
- Design and act on a plan to legally protect certain assets.
- Prove to the court that any collection activities would be challenging by submitting a financial affidavit.
It’s essential to note that attempting to hide, transfer, or otherwise illegally protect assets when facing a lawsuit can lead to fraudulent conveyance claims.
What Options Do Plaintiffs Have If The Damages Exceed The Insurance Payout?
Car accident plaintiffs can exercise many options to obtain compensation for personal injuries. A judgment creditor can access financial records, garnish bank accounts, or garnish wages. Learn more about each below.
Access to Financial Records
Judgment creditors can review all of a debtor’s (defendant) financial records, including bank statements, tax returns, wage statements, and more. Further, victorious plaintiffs can require the defendant to make a legally binding deposition that outlines all assets and finances.
Bank Account Garnishment
The most common and useful method for collecting car accident judgments is bank account garnishment. A Writ of Garnishment can be obtained from the Clerk of Court. The plaintiff must then serve the defendant’s bank.
When the bank receives the Writ of Garnishment, they immediately freeze all accounts of the debtor. Once frozen, the bank informs the creditor of the account details, including the amount of money in the account at the time of garnishment.
In addition to bank account garnishment, creditors can also garnish a debtor’s wages. Wage garnishment involves directing the defendant’s employer to garnish up to one-fourth of their wages. Wage garnishment can continue until all debts are paid.
Defenses to Bank Account and Wage Garnishment in Florida
There are ways to protect your finances after an at-fault accident in Florida. A few of the most common methods to defend your bank account and wages against garnishment include but are not limited to:
- Head-of-Household Protections: At-fault drivers considered the “head of household” in Florida are typically exempted from a bank account and wage garnishment (up to six months’ wages).
- Joint Accounts: Certain types of joint accounts are exempt from garnishment. That’s especially true of accounts shared with a non-debtor spouse who holds equal equity and survivorship rights to the account.
- Exempt Income: Income from sources like social security, disability benefits, and annuities are exempt from collections and garnishment.
It’s recommended that at-fault drivers review their finances, fix any vulnerabilities, and submit a financial affidavit to increase the chances of avoiding litigation.
In many cases, if a plaintiff and their auto accident lawyer don’t believe they can collect more from you than the insurer, they will likely settle with the insurance company.
Contact A Florida Auto Accident Attorney
Sometimes, “at-fault drivers” are not entirely to blame for the accident. In that case, an experienced auto accident attorney can help you prove the other party’s negligence and potentially avoid a personal injury lawsuit.
Contact Shrier Law Group today to discuss the details of your case with a skilled Florida auto accident attorney.