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What Happens If A Defendant In An Injury Case Isn't Insured?

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When a personal injury attorney files a claim, the process usually involves dealing with an insurance company. The personal injury lawyer sends the defendant and their insurance carrier a notice stating what the case is about and why the client feels they deserve compensation.

You may wonder, though, what happens if the defendant isn't insured. Worse, what if they can't afford to pay?  Let's take a look at how a personal injury lawyer might elect to handle that situation.

Self-Insuring Defendants

Notably, some defendants have the financial means required to pay settlements or judgments. Some corporations are so large and well-off that they save money by not carrying insurance and, instead, paying claims out on their own.

Generally, these cases are like dealing with an insurance carrier. There are two main exceptions. First, the company might elect to settle because the case is a bad look, even if they feel the overall case is fairly weak. Second, the company can decide at any time to pay up without going through the adjustment process. Still, many self-insured entities elect to hire independent adjusters to handle claims.

Not Self-Insured, but Able to Pay

The next tier of potential defendants includes those who aren't rich enough to pay out like they were their own insurance company but who do have some assets. For a personal injury lawyer, the biggest concern in these cases is that the defendants may be less willing to settle. The lack of an insurance adjuster means there is less of an interest in paying a valid claim, and that means a lawsuit may be necessary.

If the plaintiff is successful in suing, the court will demand a detailed accounting of their assets. The plaintiff will then have the right to place a lien on all of the defendant's assets until the judgment obligation is paid off. If selling their stuff doesn't settle the claim, then the court may also order wage garnishment.

Judgment-Proof Defendants

When a defendant is destitute to the point that they have nothing that can even be sold off, a personal injury lawyer may describe them as being judgment-proof. Liens and wage garnishments are options, but they may not be all that effective.

Notably, a lawyer may ask the court to dig into some of their recent asset and money transfers. For example, a defendant who transfers their assets to a relative or business partner to avoid paying a judgment has committed a form of fraud. The court will likely order the transferred assets seized.