Proof Of No Insurance

Someone in Weatherford, Mineral Wells, Aledo, Azle, Hudson Oaks, Willow Park, Millsap, Brock, Cool, Peaster, or anywhere else in Parker County may wonder how to make a claim for uninsured motorist benefits. READ ALL THE WAY TO THE END TO GET THE ANSWER.
The Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion in 1970, in the case styled, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. William A. Matlock et ux. In this case the court reversed its earlier opinion and the ruling of the trial court and the court of appeals. This reversal resulted in William Matlock and his wife taking nothing in their lawsuit against State Farm.
The Matlocks suffered injuries in an accident with a car driven by a man identified in the court record only as a man with one leg. They knew the name of this man, but did not testify about his name. Upon the theory that he was an uninsured motorist and without joining him as a defendant, the Matlocks filed a lawsuit against their own insurer, State Farm, and asserted its liability under its policy terms to cover the Matlocks for damages for bodily injury caused by an uninsured motorist.
In State Farms’ appeal and motion for rehearing, urged that the Matlocks failed to obtain a judgment against the uninsured motorist. State Farm claimed that a judgment against the uninsured motorist is a condition precedent to the Matlocks’ action against State Farm. In the original opinion issued by the Texas Supreme Court, the court held that neither the Texas Insurance Code nor the policy provisions of the insurance between State Farm and the Matlocks required the Matlocks to obtain a judgment against an uninsured motorist prior to seeking a judgment against the insurer. State Farm had a point, which it consistently urged in its motion for rehearing, that the Matlocks failed to prove that the driver of the other vehicle was an uninsured motorist.
In its discussion, this court said, “Texas has not had an occasion to allocate the burden of proving the uninsured status of an operator in direct actions by an insured against his insurer, but most courts outside of Texas have placed the burden upon the claimant.” This court then cited cases from, Arkansas, California, Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina, and New York. The difficulty in proving a negative is recognized and the court approved a cite from one of the cases which said:
“Since the absence of insurance upon the offending vehicle and its driver is a condition precedent to the applicability of the uninsured driver endorsement, we hold that the burden of proving such absence is upon the claimant. However, we must keep in mind that proving a negative is always difficult and frequently impossible and that, consequently, the quantum of proof must merely be such as will convince the trier of facts that all reasonable efforts have been made to ascertain the existence of an applicable policy and that such efforts have proven fruitless. In such an event, and absent any affirmative proof by petitioner (the insurance company), the inference may be drawn that there is in fact no insurance policy in force which is applicable.”
In this case, Mr. Matlock was the only person who testified about the uninsured status of the other vehicle. He testified that he bought his own policy from Earl Oxford who was the recording agent for State Farm. He said he knew the other driver, but he identified him in the record only as a man with one leg. Matlock did not prove the make, model, or license number of the other vehicle, and this information was easily available. Below is the only evidence which Matlock presented to prove the one-legged operator was an uninsured motorist:
Q. Go ahead. Did Mr. Oxford ever tell you anything about whether or not this man that you had the accident with had liability insurance?
A. He said that he checked with him, and he didn’t have any type of insurance.
State Farm had objected to this answer as hearsay and because there was no proof that Oxford had authority to make statements and admissions that were binding upon State Farm. In agreeing with this objection, this court said that in their opinion, Oxford did not have the authority to bind State Farm by his statement. Oxford, as State Farm’s recording agent, sold the policy to the Matlocks, and Matlock testified that Oxford was still with State Farm, “so far as I know.” There was no proof of Oxford’s agency powers.
In conclusion the court stated that the Matlocks failed to prove that the operator was an uninsured motorist and thus the uninsured motorist protection did not apply.
NOW FOR THE CURRENT LAW The above case was essentially overruled by the Texas Legislature when it passed a law in 2007. The new law is found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1952.109. It says, “The insurer has the burden of proof in a dispute as to whether a motor vehicle is uninsured.”
Uninsured motorist cases have pitfalls that are important to know. An experienced Insurance Law Attorney is necessary to assist in getting through these pitfalls.