The Defendant And The Insurance Company: What Are Their Roles In Your Case?
When you are injured, you sue the Defendant or Defendants—the people or companies who are responsible for causing your accident. But you may notice something interesting: The Defendant’s attorney represents the Defendant…but also the insurance company.
In fact, your own injury attorney may talk to you about “the Defendant” and mention “the insurance company” interchangeably. So what’s going on? Who are you suing, and who exactly is on the other side of your case? The Defendant or an insurance company?
Both Have a Role
The answer in most cases is both. And although both have a role in your case, there is often only one attorney (or law firm) representing both the Defendant and the insurance company.
This is because of the way that insurance works. Most insurance policies that protect you when you are sued, will pay what you owe to the other side, up to the limits of the insurance policy. That part you already knew.
What you may not have known is that the insurance policy also pays the Defendant’s attorney fees—with the catch that if they do that, they will choose the Defendant’s lawyer, and make decisions about the defense of the case. The insurance company, and usually not the Defendant, will make the final decision about whether to settle a case, or what to offer to settle, as well as all legal decisions that have to be made for the Defendant in the case.
That means that the lawyer on the other side of the table in your case, does in fact represent the Defendant, but is being paid for, and directed by, the insurance company, and generally must get the insurance company’s permission to do whatever it is that they need to do.
The Insurance Adjuster
That adds another human person to the equation: a representative for the insurance company, often called the adjuster. You may notice at court hearings or procedures, that it’s not just the Defendant present, but someone from the insurance company—often, an adjuster for the insurance company.
And if all that isn’t confusing enough, that’s if there’s only one Defendant. If there are multiple defendants, you may have the Defendants in court, a different law firm for each one of them and their insurance companies, and different adjusters for each Defendant.
Not a Named Defendant
If you ever see documents filed in your case in court, you may also notice that only the Defendant’s name appears—not the name of the insurance company (unless it’s a case where you are actually suing an insurance company).
That’s because even though insurance is paying whatever is owed to you, and hiring the attorney, and directing the defense of the case, the insurance company is not actually being sued, and is not a named Defendant in the lawsuit.