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Federal Appellate Court Affirms Lower Court’s Decision in Underinsured Motorist Claim

Posted in Auto Accidents

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit released its opinion in a personal injury case earlier this month. The case arose from a 2011 accident in which a woman drove through a stop-sign and caused a multi-vehicle accident. The plaintiff in the case was a motorist who was driving with two passengers.

The at-fault driver had an insurance policy that had liability limits of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. The plaintiffs settled the case and opted to collect under the per-accident limit, so the driver received $250,000, and the two passengers split the remaining $250,000. The plaintiffs then argued that the amounts they received were inadequate to make them whole and as a result put a claim in through the plaintiff-driver’s insurance company through their “underinsured” motorist clause.

The insurance company denied the claim and held that this clause did not apply because their policy states that the coverage is limited to $500,000, and the plaintiffs already received that amount through the original claim. The plaintiffs argued that the insurance company’s policy does not make clear that the underinsured motorist policy is limited to $500,000 per accident, and the limit should be considered a per-person limit.

The defendants moved to dismiss the case, and their motion was granted. The plaintiffs then appealed, but the appellate court agreed with the lower court’s decision. That court held that the policy was not ambiguous, and the policy had a series of declaration pages and forms. They found that these forms and declarations were clear, and therefore they affirmed the lower court’s decision in favor of the defendant.

Implications When Someone Is Injured in a New Mexico Accident and the Other Party Is Underinsured

Like many states, New Mexico mandates a minimum liability amount of insurance that drivers must have on their vehicles. However, the sad fact is that many drivers do not comply with this rule, which causes a series of complicated issues for all of the parties involved.

Under New Mexico law, insurance companies must protect their policyholders and provide them with some uninsured motorist policy in case a situation such as the one above arises. Basically, this policy makes it mandatory for an insurance company to pay the innocent party the same amount of damages they would have received if the culpable party had maintained the required amount of coverage. This also extends to personal injury and wrongful death cases.

Although the law requires that the insurance company provide this claim, there is no requirement that the driver purchase this type of policy. There are situations in which a New Mexico insurance company will provide a driver with a better or lower rate if they opt out of this policy. If this occurs, they will most certainly have the driver sign a waiver agreeing to it. This could cause many problems if the driver is hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

Have You Been Injured Due to the Negligence of Another Party in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident because of the negligence of another party, you should contact one of the dedicated and experienced attorneys at the Fine Law Firm. Besides injuries and property damage, one of the unfortunate consequences of an automobile accident is the amount of red tape that ensues. It is often very easy to sign up for insurance, but issues will almost always arise when it is time to collect. These problems are only heightened when the culpable party is underinsured or uninsured altogether. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can work with you to seek the compensation you deserve. Contact an Albuquerque car accident attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Holds City Employee Not Entitled to Immunity in Premises Liability Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 7, 2016.

State Court Holds Recreational Immunity Does Not Apply to Hot-Air Balloon Company Providing Free Rides on Another’s Property, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, May 4, 2016.