Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. v. MMG Insurance Co.: UM/UIM Coverage for Passengers

Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. v. MMG Insurance Co., a case from the Vermont Court of Appeals, involved a passenger who was severely injured in a single car accident. The driver of the car, according to court records, was the only person responsible for the accident.

269548_emergency.jpgThe owner of the vehicle was the victim’s mother. The vehicle had an accident liability policy with a limit of $500,000 and an UM/UIM policy with limits of $500,000. As your Charlotte car accident lawyer can explain, car insurance typically has limits for an individual injury, all injuries in a single accident, and a provision for total property damage as a result of the accident.

In North Carolina, the state’s legal minimum coverage requirement is $30,000 in personal injury per person, $60,000 in total personal injury damages in any one accident and $25,000 in personal property damages. This number is normally written in the following form: 30/60/25. While this may seem like a low legal limit, it is actually higher than limits in many other states.

If a driver has the North Carolina legal limit, but causes an accident where a person suffers $100,000 in damages, that driver is considered an underinsured motorist (UIM). If a driver has no insurance and causes an accident, they are considered an Uninsured Motorist (UM).

The victim’s car insurance policy likely has UM/UIM coverage to help if he or she is hit by a driver with less insurance coverage than needed to fully compensate the injured party for their damages.

In the Progressive case,, the injured victim was awarded only around $250,000 because there were other injured parties in the accident. This figure was less than needed to fully compensate him for his injuries. He filed a claim for UIM benefits.

The owner’s vehicle had the $500,000 UIM coverage, and the victim also had access to another policy with UIM limits of $1 million through another insurance carrier. The two insurance companies did not agree on who was responsible for paying the claim.

The owner’s insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment that, if successful, would result in the case being dismissed. The grounds for this motion were that they believed the policy exclusions for owned-vehicle and covered-automobile exempted them from liability in this situation. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment.

Essentially, the insurance company was arguing that, if the victim had access to drive the vehicle himself, as it was a family-owned car, he should not be entitled to collect under an UIM policy. While there was a lengthy dissent opinion filed with the majority opinion, the court ultimately reversed and remanded the trial court’s ruling on this issue.

The issue turned on whether allowing this exemption would create a coverage gap. The court’s reason for reversing the trial court was that an enacted statute spoke to this issue, and the court found that the limit was consistent with the legislative history and discussion surrounding the enactment of the statute.

Contact the Winston-Salem car accident attorneys at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Woman, child injured after car plunges down embankment in Winston-Salem, August 8, 2014, Fox News

More Blog Entries:

Another Recall: GM to Reveal Compensation Plan, July 2, 2014, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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