The driver lost control of the SUV and struck a tree. A 14-year-old female passenger was killed. A 17-year-old male passenger sustained severe injuries. And the driver was left in a coma, suffering a traumatic brain injury. Doctors initially believed he wouldn’t live, but he did. However, the injuries he suffered were so severe, the criminal court ultimately dismissed the reckless driving, death by motor vehicle and failure to maintain lane control charges against him. Even years later, his neurological injuries were such that he was unable to stand trial. In fact, his condition continued to deteriorate while the case was pending.
Now, the North Carolina Court of Opinions has issued its opinion in NCFBMIC v. Jarvis et al., in which a guardian ad litem on behalf of the driver as well as the male passenger and his mother, were involved in a dispute with an insurance company over four separate insurance policies. The court ultimately found claimants were not entitled to collect on three of those policies because the driver wasn’t listed as a resident of any insured’s household and the vehicle he was driving was only listed on one of those four policies.
As our Asheville auto accident lawyers know, these types of entanglements with auto insurers can be confusing. Particularly in cases where the injuries sustained are severe and long-lasting, it’s best to consult with an experienced attorney.
Here, according to court records, driver as operating an SUV owned by his mother. After the crash, the male passenger and his mother filed a lawsuit against the driver and his mother, alleging gross negligence and seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Although that case is not the subject of the underlying action, it was during those depositions that the driver’s mother revealed that although his father shared joint custody of him, the teen had not lived with him nor even visited with him in his home years prior to the crash.
This was a critical assertion because while one of the insurance policies in question (we’ll call it Policy No. 1) specifically covered the driver, his mother and their vehicle, other auto insurance policies in question – issued by the same insurer – were held by driver’s father and his second wife.
Policy No. 2 covered driver’s father, his second wife and father’s two step-children. It also identifies two covered vehicles, though neither of those are the SUV that was driven that night.
Policy No. 3 was issued in the name of the stepchildren, who at the time lived with the father.
Policy No. 4 was issued in the name of a dairy farm business owned by driver’s father.
Claimants sought coverage under Policies 1 through 4. They argued that because driver was “family member,” coverage was available under these policies. The insurer disagreed.
Trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurance company, and the injured parties appealed. The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that while coverage was available under Policy No. 1 – $100,000 in total – that amount could not be “stacked,” and coverage was not available under the other three policies.
It’s important in these cases to explore all recovery options. It may be possible, if passengers parents carried underinsured motorist coverage, to pursue further action under those policies.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
NCFBMIC v. Jarvis et al., Nov. 17, 2015, North Carolina Court of Appeal
More Blog Entries:
Rock Hill Hit-and-Run Car Accident Results in Death of 11-Year-Old Boy, Nov. 4, 2015, Asheville Car Accident Lawyer Blog