First, you need a lawyer. This can be a very tricky situation. Not doing the correct thing can cost you a lot of money.
For example, let’s say that you have a lot of medical bills caused by the car accident. Your health insurance paid the doctor and the hospitals $60,000.00 to satisfy the bills.
We don’t know what the lawsuit is worth, but let’s say it’s as much as $240,000, for the purpose of this example. The other driver has only $25,000 in insurance limits. But you – because you plan ahead – have $500,000 in underinsured motorist coverage.
The other driver’s insurance company is going to insist that you sign a release of all claims against the driver before it gives you the $25,000. And if you do that without observing certain precautions, you may lose the right to get money from your lawsuit against the underinsured motorist insurance. The reason is because your underinsured motorist company may be able to use your signed release of the other driver as a defense against your claim for underinsured motorist claim.
In short, you could lose the (almost) $240,000 while you are collecting the $25,000.
The problem is that signing the release to get the $25,000.00 not only lets the bad guy off the hook – it also releases your claims against the underinsured motorist insurance company.
What any good lawyer in Ohio should do – in order – is:
(1) Get the other driver’s insurance to offer their limits of $25,000;
(2)Notify the underinsured company (that is, your insurance company) of the offer, and ask the underinsured company if it wants to
(a)allow you to release the driver and continue to pursue the underinsured claim, or, in the alternative,
(b) offer the $25,000 itself and retain the right to sue the underinsured driver
Doing the above lets you both collect the $25,000, and then present the lawsuit against the underinsured motorist insurance for the rest of what your lawsuit is worth.
I have been a lawyer over 30 years. I study the law, and give talks to groups of other lawyers about it. If you want to talk about insurance and how it affects your lawsuit, speak with an experienced injury attorney – call me at 513-621-4775.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.