Plaintiff’s Underinsured Motorist Claim Denied by Appellate Court

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently released an opinion affirming a lower court’s ruling against the driver and two passengers involved in a car accident. The plaintiffs alleged that the settlement they received from the at-fault driver was not sufficient to cover their damages, and they sought additional relief from the insurance company covering the driver of the car they occupied. The plaintiffs attempted to use the underinsured motorist coverage included in the driver’s insurance policy to contribute to their relief, but the district court and Seventh Circuit agreed with the defendant, holding that the uninsured motorist coverage under which the claim was filed did not apply.

Plaintiffs Are Injured after Another Driver Runs Through Stop Sign, Causing a Four-Car Accident

The plaintiffs in the case of Trotter v. Harleysville Insurance Company were injured when the car they were occupying was struck at an intersection by another vehicle that drove through a stop sign. After the accident, the plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit and reached a settlement with the insurance company representing the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident.

The settlement that was reached awarded a total of $500,000 to the three plaintiffs, which was shared based on the injuries each had sustained in the crash. The $500,000 settlement was for the single-accident policy limit of the liability insurance coverage, although the plaintiffs maintained after accepting the settlement that they were not made whole by the settlement and suffered more harm that should be compensated.

Plaintiffs Make a Claim With Their Own Insurance Company 

After the settlement was finalized, the plaintiffs filed suit against the insurance provider that covered the vehicle that the plaintiffs occupied in the accident, claiming that the $500,000 they received in the settlement was not enough to fully compensate them for their injuries. The claim requested additional damages from the second insurance company through the underinsured motorist protection that the driver had purchased. The second insurance company denied the plaintiffs’ claim, insisting that the underinsured motorist protection would not cover total damages of over $500,000 per accident.

The plaintiffs challenged the defendant’s position in federal district court, but the district court sided with the defendants, finding that the policy language accompanying the underinsured motorist protection was clear and unambiguous that it would not offer coverage for total damages over $500,000 per accident. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit agreed, finding that the policy language clearly limited the coverage to $500,000 per accident and that any ambiguities in the language would not favor the plaintiffs. As a result of these rulings, the plaintiffs will have to make do with the initial settlement amounts they each received.

Insurance Policy Limits in Florida Car Accident Cases

Auto insurance policies sold in Florida contain limits on the amount of liability that the insurance company is willing to assume. If an accident plaintiff suffers damages that exceed the policy limits of the insurance coverage, they may still be entitled to full compensation, although the insurance company only must pay the amount of the policy limit, meaning that any balance would be the responsibility of the at-fault party themselves. This can often limit plaintiffs’ ability to collect the additional damages, since many accident defendants cannot afford to pay damages in excess of their insurance coverage.

In some instances, however, plaintiffs can successfully be awarded the full policy limit from an insurance company and collect the balance of their compensation from the at-fault party. This is especially true in cases in which a commercial or industrial vehicle is involved in an accident, since the plaintiff may be able to seek damages from the company that was operating the vehicle after exhausting the policy limits from the insurance provider that covered the vehicle. South Florida accident victims should consult with a Miami personal injury attorney to discuss the possibility of seeking damages in excess of an insurance policy limit.

Are You a Victim of Negligence?

If you or a close family member has been in an auto accident, it can be difficult to navigate the complex process of seeking compensation for your injuries from an insurance company. The South Florida accident attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can work as your advocates to pursue the damages that you deserve. Don’t trust insurance companies or the attorneys representing other parties when discussing a settlement and signing away the rights to your claim. Call the South Florida accident attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank and schedule a consultation today. Contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or via our online contact form. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Wrongful Death Claim, May 12, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Judgment in Favor of County Fair Association Affirmed after Plaintiff Injured During Free Fireworks Display, April 21, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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