Using Uninsured Motorist Coverage to Collect in Auto Accident Injury or Death Cases

When you are injured in an auto accident, dealing with insurance companies is often challenging, especially in cases with more complex issues, since the insurers may seek any basis for denying coverage and refusing you the compensation you deserve. In one recent case, the Louisiana Supreme Court decided that a motorcyclist killed in an accident was covered by insurance, since the policy contained greater than state-minimum uninsured motorist coverage.

The case arose from a tragic accident in 2007. That summer, Dave Peterson was driving a motorcycle he co-owned with Benjamin Gibson when he was involved in a wreck with an SUV driven by Michael Johnson. Peterson died as a result of the accident.

Peterson’s girlfriend, Ashanti Green, who was also the mother of Peterson’s two minor children, sued for wrongful death. In addition to suing Johnson, she also named several insurance companies, including Johnson’s insurer, State Farm, as well as Allstate, based upon underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage in her auto policy and the auto policy of Gibson, and American Southern, which Green asserted had issued a policy on the motorcycle.

In addition to dismissing some other entities from the case, the trial court concluded that Allstate owed no obligation to compensate Green. The court accepted Allstate’s argument that neither Peterson nor the motorcycle were covered under the policies the company issued to Gibson and Green.

The Court of Appeal affirmed, but the Supreme Court recently reversed. The high court explained that an injured person could be entitled to coverage in one of two ways. First, the state’s uninsured motorist statute sets out the minimum extent of uninsured motorist coverage permissible under Louisiana law. Additionally, an insurer and a policyholder can choose, if they desire, to contract for uninsured motorist coverage that goes beyond what the state statute establishes as a minimum.

In Green’s case, the statute would not have forced Allstate to pay. However, the uninsured motorist coverage in the policy Gibson held went beyond the statutory minimum. Gibson’s policy required Allstate to pay, the court determined, because Peterson was a person injured “while in, on, getting into or out of an ‘insured auto’ with [Gibson’s] express or implied permission.”

The court rejected the insurer’s contention that the motorcycle was not a covered vehicle under the policy because it was not a four-wheel vehicle. While the liability coverage of Gibson’s policy was restricted to four-wheel vehicles, the uninsured motorist coverage was broader, covering all land vehicles, not just four-wheeled ones.

If you or a loved one is injured in an auto accident, dealing with insurance companies is often a necessary part of the process. Dealing with just one insurance company can be difficult, but dealing with several can be downright daunting. To make sure you get the recovery your family deserves, you need to put determined representation on your side. Talk to the experienced Louisiana motorcycle accident attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our attorneys can help you sort through all of the components of your injury case.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

The Theory of Respondeat Superior, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Jan. 9, 2015

Emergency Vehicle Crashes, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Dec. 23, 2014


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