I came into the office today and noticed that overnight my fax machine had spit out a flyer addressed to Attorneys and carrying the following message: “BEFORE you accept insurance policy limits in a PI case, let us do an asset search on the driver to determine his current bank balances, his real estate holdings…” and so forth. The message was clear. Defendants cannot assume that that their judgment creditors will merely accept the maximum insurance payout. If there are assets available beyond the insurance they will go after them.
This email, obviously from some type of private investigator, demonstrates and reinforces the notion that persons with accumulated assets must consider asset protection planning as part of their estate planning and tax planning processes. I have heard too many doctors tell me that they are adequately insured and therefore can always settle within policy limits. It is simply not true and such thinking leaves them vulnerable in the event of a malpractice action.
Although perhaps more common in the case of professional malpractice, the concept is equally applicable to anyone who drives a car, operates a boat or owns a business. Being adequately insured with appropriate umbrella coverage is a must and strongly encouraged by this author. But it is not enough. Asset protection planning must be considered and, if indicated, should be implemented by an attorney with experience and background in the area.