You are in an accident in Texas and your medical bills are mounting up. The other driver provided you and the police a copy of his proof of insurance, so you think you are ok. Maybe even in good hands. You contact the adjuster for the other driver, and they say, “yes we have seen the report and spoken to our insured and we accept full responsibility.”
“Great.” You say. “My ER bill was $25,000. What are your driver’s insurance limits?”
After a brief silence, you hear “we are not at liberty to disclose this, just submit the bills and we will ‘evaluate’ them.”
The “We Cannot Tell You” Lie
The above fact scenario is very common in Texas. Adjusters pull this all the time. But the reality is, it is a lie. They can tell you, they chose not to. There is no law prohibiting this disclosure. In fact, in many states, insurance adjusters are required by law to tell you and provide proof if you ask. This is not the case in Texas. The reality is that they can tell you but they usually will not because they want to try to lowball your bills to save themselves money.
They may even say that cannot tell you without getting their insured’s permission. Please. Go get it, I’ll wait.
Remember this: The insured did not get any input in how the contract was written. The insurance company wrote the contract that governs what they can and cannot disclose. Think about that. If they “cannot tell you,” it is only because they made it so.
How Do I Find Out the Other Driver’s Policy Limits After a Wreck in Texas?
When you are trying to find the other driver’s insurance limits and the adjuster will not tell you, you have five options. You can ask your own insurance, ask the other driver, send a demand for the policy limits and request proof, or lastly, file a lawsuit and force them to answer. All of these options have implications that could affect your claim and, thus, you should proceed carefully—with the advice of an attorney would be the best way.
Ask Your Own Insurance
If you have underinsured motorist coverage, you may be able to get this information from them. Insurance companies have access to more coverage information than other people do. Plus, your uninsured motorist policy gets credit for any amount the other driver’s policy pays. It is in their own best interest that you collect it all. Thus, they might be more helpful than the other driver and his insurance company.
Ask the Other Driver
One way you might find out the policy limits is to call the other driver from his phone number on the police report and ask. He may or may not tell you. If his insurance company has advised him not to talk to you, you may not get an answer. This conversation could also result in the other driver claiming you said things you did not– Thus, direct communication with the other driver is unwise without having a qualified car accident lawyer present.
Send Out a Demand for Policy Limits and Request Proof
Sending a demand for “policy limits” can result in the other driver disclosing whether he has a minimum limits policy or not. You demand would request “the full policy limit,” since you do not know the amount. However, if you send out a demand that they pay the “policy limits,” there are two things you need to be aware of. First, if they accept it, your case is settled –even if those limits are low. If there were other avenues of recovery such as excess coverage or other policies, you may have just waived your right to make those claims. Thus, you do not want to do this if your bills are very high and you are unsure of the limits.
The second thing to know is that you need to request permission to accept the policy limits from your own insurance company if you wish to make a claim for uninsured motorist benefits. In our own auto policy, there is a clause that requires you to get their permission before settling the claim. This is because if they pay your claim too, they have a right to seek reimbursement from the driver if he has sufficient assets to go after. If you settle with that driver, you have settled their rights too. This could void coverage. Thus, you would be wise to discuss your case and enlist the assistance of a qualified car accident attorney before attempting to make a demand.
Lastly, you should be aware that a valid Stower’s demand has very strict requirements. Even many attorneys struggle to draft a Stowers Demand Letter that will hold up to scrutiny by the Texas courts of appeals. Thus, you should enlist an attorney for this.
Suing the Driver
If the driver and the insurance company will not disclose the policy limits, then the only way to find out what his limits are in Texas is to sue the guy. Once you file a lawsuit, your attorney can take sworn depositions as well as send out written interrogatories (questions) that the other driver must answer under oath. This is the most reliable way to find out the other driver’s limits without waiving any of your rights.
Hire a Service
The last option you have if you do not want to file a lawsuit without knowing the limits is to hire an investigation service that researches auto insurance policy limits. There are a few companies with the ability to research insurance policies and/or limits. The costs range from $300-500 depending upon the company and they may or may not be able to find a policy and/or the limits. If you chose to go this route, be sure you are hiring a company that only does this through legal channels and ask what happens to your fee if they find nothing. Some will waive their fee if they find nothing, others will not.
Under Texas law, an insurance adjuster does not have to tell you what their insured’s policy limits are. You can do a Stowers demand to force them to pay and prove the limits, but this is contingent upon you accepting their settlement offer. The only reliable way to find out the other driver’s policy limits is to sue them and force them to produce the proof.