Can You Sue the Insurance Company Instead of the At Fault Driver?
A very common question in personal injury law is “can I sue the other driver’s insurance company instead of the driver himself?” In theory this makes sense because it is the other driver’s insurance company who you are negotiating with and who is ultimately going to pay your claim.
Except in very rare cases, the at fault driver’s insurance is not the party you sue. The party you sue is the individual driver who caused the accident as well as other potential liable parties, including that person’s employer.
The primary reason you don’t get to sue the at fault driver’s insurance company is because the presence of insurance to pay the damages is not admissible by law. Whether the at fault driver has insurance coverage, and if so in what amount, is not something the jury gets to know about. This is because the jury may be more likely to award damages based around the presence of the auto coverage, instead of exclusively by its role as the factfinder.
In other words, if the at fault party had no auto insurance coverage, the jury should still come to the same verdict regardless.
Practically speaking however, if the at fault party has auto insurance coverage, it not only has dollar coverage for the loss, but also gets provided with paid for counsel. Whereas if the at fault party has no insurance coverage, there is no carrier paying legal counsel to provide a defense. And depending on other factors, including the presence of uninsured motorist coverage, those cases rarely would make it to trial.
Now there is one auto insurance company that you can technically sue in a car accident case. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you might elect to also sue your own carrier as an additional party. If you do sue your carrier, it can then elect to either defend “in its name,” or to be presented to the jury instead as an additional counsel of the defendant.
Unless this is a hit and run accident with a “John Doe” defendant, your carrier will almost always choose to not defend in its name. It would rather provide additional defense to the defendant so that the jury does not hear the insurance company’s name announced as a defendant. The insurance company would rightly be concerned that if it were announced as a named defendant, the jury would be more likely to award higher damages.
When you sue for injuries from your auto accident, the insurance company(s) are certainly running the show as far as the defense and payment. However, it is rare that the name of the case presented to the jury is anything under the individual names of the drivers involved in the collision.