Uninsured Motorist Coverage – Fighting Your Own Insurance Carrier

Uninsured motorist coverage is now required for all drivers in North Carolina.
These benefits will ensure that if you are involved in a Charlotte traffic collision with someone without adequate insurance – or worse, no insurance – that you will still be able to successfully seek compensation.

However, you should anticipate that the insurance company will not simply roll over amount (particularly if you’re asking for more than the $25,000 minimum coverage limit for property damage or $30,000 for injuries per person). Despite the fact that medical care has never been more expensive, these firms remain committed to reducing their liability in any way possible.

What you should also understand is that the amount you are allowed to collect could be offset by what you recover in damages from the other driver and his insurance firm (in cases of underinsured motorists).

That was the unfortunate lesson recently learned in AAA Mid-Atlantic Ins. Co. v. Ryan, which was reviewed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In this case, the plaintiff was driving through an urban intersection when she was struck by another vehicle, causing her to suffer bodily harm.

Soon after, she and her husband filed a lawsuit against the other driver, as well as the city and the state department of transportation, alleging that the highway had been defectively designed.

The claim against the department of transportation was dismissed by stipulation.

The other two claims were transferred to a binding arbitration process. Prior to the arbitration, the plaintiff settled with the other driver for $25,000 – the maximum limit on that driver’s insurance coverage.

The remaining claim against the city moved on to arbitration. The arbitrator established liability as follows:

  • Other driver: 50 percent;
  • Plaintiff: 35 percent;
  • City: 15 percent.

The arbitrator awarded the plaintiffs a total of $500,000. However, $175,000 was immediately subtracted based on her comparative negligence of 35 percent. That left them with $325,000, but $25,000 of that was subtracted, based on what was paid by the other driver. So that left the city with a bill of $300,000. The city paid.

Following the arbitrator’s finding of damages and apportionment of liability, the plaintiffs were given the green light to proceed with their claim for underinsured motorist coverage. However, the insurance company pointed to a clause in the agreement that stated that liability for bodily injury claims shall be reduced by sums paid by other persons or organizations deemed legally responsible. The policy further stated that no duplicate payments would be made.

Initially, an arbitration panel determined that the policy as written was not enforceable because it went against public policy, even if it did result in a double recovery for damages.

However, a trial court then granted the insurance company’s request to vacate that ruling, indicating that the appellate panel failed to offer substantial legal support for its reasoning.

Then the plaintiff’s appealed to the Superior Court, which reversed the trial court’s finding, reasoning that, again, public policy had been violated.

But then, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed that decision, reasoning that the plaintiffs had been fully compensated for the entire amount of damages for which the arbitrator had deemed them entitled. Any further awards, the court indicated, would be repetitive. Additionally, the court found that the policy as written was not a violation of public policy.

These cases are not always as simple and straightforward as we would wish them to be. This is why it is imperative to have an experienced lawyer on your side.

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the Charlotte personal injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
AAA Mid-Atlantic Ins. Co. v. Ryan, Jan. 21, 2014, Pennsylvania Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Insurance Company May Fight Underinsured Motorist Claims in North Carolina, Jan. 17, 2014, Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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