Attorney Question Of The Month

This month we asked our affiliated attorneys a somewhat hypothetical question about lawsuits and insurance. That one product invites the other action is an idea we hear now and then. We thought it was time to go to the litigators and find out if it is true. We asked–

It has been said that insurance invites lawsuits. Do you believe this is true? Have you any direct experience showing whether or not those with insurance are more likely to be sued for damages?

So many affiliated attorneys responded–with answers that were all over the board and some in such length–that this will be our attorney topic next month, too. Here’s the first volley of responses—

Jacques Mann, Esq.
P O Box 14424, West Allis, WI 53214-0424
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  I was an in-house insurance defense litigation attorney for 13½ years, the last eight years of which I was also a coverage attorney. Yes, the presence of insurance coverage and the amount of coverage for a claim is a factor in whether one gets sued for damages.

  No one sues an uninsured person who owns a modest, nice home and a basic auto and no or only a modest portfolio of stocks and bonds and who has a modest to middle class earning capacity because collection will be an issue despite the fact that claims for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity within the meaning of 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6) are NOT dischargeable in bankruptcy.

  The presence of assets of substantial worth or high insurance coverage with or without an umbrella policy makes one a target for a lawsuit, especially wrongful death claims, which I have defended.

Kenneth D. Willis
Yorkshire Plaza Bldg., Suite 103, 2200 East 104th Ave., Thornton, CO 80233
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Even assuming the answer is yes, I’d turn the question around and ask it this way: Will not having insurance ever mean you won’t be sued? I don’t think you’ll ever talk a plaintiff’s lawyer out of suing you for what he or she thinks is a valid claim just because you don’t have insurance unless you are so obviously poor enough to be judgment proof. For someone with substantial assets they want to keep, it would never be rational not to carry insurance solely to make it less likely they will be sued. Even if your gun and the money you saved by not buying insurance are your only assets, there is a lawyer somewhere willing to sue you for his one-third of it.

  John R. Monroe
Attorney at Law
9640 Coleman Rd., Roswell, GA 30075
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  I don’t think most potential plaintiffs are likely to know if a potential defendant has insurance in most scenarios (auto accidents being a notable exception, because insurance information commonly is exchanged and included on police reports). In the case of a defensive use of a weapon, such information would not be readily known to the other party.

  A person with obvious financial means (e.g., someone shot while breaking into a fancy house) might be expected to have applicable insurance, because he has more assets to protect, but that would only be speculation.