Sueing An Insurance Company

Can I sue the insurance company? Someone in Dallas, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Arlington, Mansfield, De Soto, Irving, Mesquite, Garland, Carolton, Farmersville, Weatherford, or anywhere else in Texas might ask that question. The answer is the same lawyer answer that a person gets on most legal questions: It depends.
When someone talks of sueing an insurance company that can usually mean one of two things. First, when a person wants to sue their own insurance company, that is something that can be done, assuming the insurance company has committed some wrong against you. This is called a “first party” claim.
When a person has a “third party” claim, then they cannot sue the insurance company. The most normal scenario for this is a car wreck. Usually someone causes a wreck with you, they give you their insurance information, you contact that insurance, that insurance company starts giving you the run around. The result of all this is that you want to sue the guys insurance company. You can’t. This is a third party claim and if you want to sue someone, then you have to sue the person who caused the wreck – not his insurance company. This is a “third party” claim.
The Dallas Court of Appeals issued an opinion on a case dealing with this issue on November 18, 2010. The style of the case is, Tommy Hamilton v. Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Company, Isabella G. Bezerra, and Kim Recer. This is an appeal from the 134th District Court, Dallas County, Texas.
In this case the Judge granted papers filed with the court by Farmers Texas County Mutual Insurance Company (Farmers) to have the Judge dismiss the case against Farmers. Hamilton who was a pro se appellant filed this appeal.
Here are some facts. Hamilton sued Farmers, Bezerra and Recer for personal and property injuries suffered by Hamilton as a result of an automobile accident on or about July 5, 2007. Hamilton stated that his car ran out of gas and was stalled on the side on the road when another vehicle hit the rear of his car, causing personal injury to him and damage to his car. The other vehicle was owned by Bezerra and insured by Farmers. Recer was an agent for Farmers.
Farmers filed paperwork on November 4, 2008, called a “motion for summary judgment” asking the court to dismiss Hamiltion’s claim against them based on the old Article 21.21 of the Texas Insurance Code. This Article says that a third party (Hamilton) may not maintain a direct cause of action against the insurance carrier of an insured defendant. The court granted Farmers motion.
When you think about it, this makes sense. Here is why. It was the third party who caused the damages. The insurance company did not do anything wrong itself. It was just who insured the third party who caused the accident. In a lawuit, it is the person or thing that caused you harm that you sue. The insurance company’s job is to pay the damages their insured caused, but only those damages that can be proved. The insurance company does not owe any responsibility to the injured person, their responsibility is to financially compensate their insured for anything the insured owes to someone else as the result of an accident.
There are exceptions to the above. An experienced Insurance Law Attorney will know and understand these exceptions. He can look at the facts in any given situation and apply those facts to the law and give advice as to whether or not it is worth pursueing the claim directly against the insurance company.
As a side note, there is one state in the United States that does allow a person to sue the other person’s insurance company, even in a third party claim. That state is Lousiana. In fact, in Louisiana, it is the insurance company that is sued, not their insured.