Rejection Of Uninsured Coverage

People with auto insurance policies in Grand Prairie, Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, and other places through out the DFW metroplex usually do not have a very good understanding of how their auto insurance policies work. All they know is that if they get into a wreck the insurance is suppose to help them.
There are many things an auto insurance policy can provide. The vast majority of people get the bare minimum that is required by state law. But there are many things that can be purchased. The minimum is liability coverage. Beyond liability coverage, a person can purchase coverage for damages to their vehicle, towing, auto rental, life insurance, medical payments, personal injury protection, uninsured and underinsured coverage, and a few other types of coverage.
All of these coverages work a little different from each other. Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and Uninsured / Underinsured (UM) coverage is required coverage on any auto policy sold in the State of Texas, unless these coverages are rejected in writing.
The requirement for PIP coverage is found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1952.152. The requirement for UM coverage is found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1952.101.
One aspect of these coverages was discussed in a 2004, Texas Supreme Court case styled, Old American County Mutual Fire Insurance Company v. Zeferino Sanchez. The question in this case was whether the insured spouse of the person listed as the “named insured” in the declarations page of a policy may reject those coverages. The case got to the Supreme Court as the result of a summary judgment ruling. This Supreme Court ruled that the spouse falls within the class of persons statutorily entitled to reject UM and PIP coverages under the policy.
Here is the factual background:
This case was presented on stipulated facts. On January 8, 1998, Margarita Sanchez, wife of Zeferino Sanchez, applied for and purchased an insurance policy from Old American for two of the couple’s vehicles. Ms. Sanchez rejected UM and PIP coverages on the insurance application, and Old American never assessed premiums for the coverages. In applying for the policy, Ms. Sanchez affirmed that the rejections of UM and PIP coverages would apply to the 1998 policy and to all future renewals of that policy. The Sanchezes renewed their existing policy in 1999. Neither Mr. or Mrs. Sanchez requested PIP or UM coverages at that time.
Although Ms. Sanchez’s name appeared on the 1998 policy application, she was not listed as a “named insured” on the declarations page. The policy, however, defined “you” and “your” to include the “named insured” as well as “the spouse if a resident of the same household.” Mr. Sanchez fell within the policy definitions of “you” and “your” because she and Mr. Sanchez lived in the same house at all pertinent times. To that end, the parties stipulated that both Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez were insured under the policy. The parties disagreed, however, about the extent of the policy’s coverage. Specifically, the parties disputed whether Mr. Sanchez was entitled to UM and PIP benefits to cover damages arising from a 1999 accident.
On April 11, 1999, Mr. Sanchez’s pickup was parked on the shoulder of the road. A vehicle driven by an uninsured motorist struck Mr. Sanchez’s truck as he was lying beneath it repairing a broken fuel hose. The impact caused the pickup to collapse on Mr. Sanchez and sever his spinal cord. The policy’s UM and PIP provisions excluded coverage for injuries sustained while “occupying” or when “struck by” any vehicle owned by an insured that was not insured under the policy.
After the accident, Mr. Sanchez filed a claim with Old American for UM and PIP benefits under the policy. Old American filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment absolving it of any obligation to pay those benefits.
This court got into a multi page discussion about the purpose of the UM and PIP statutes and the wording of those statutes and then compared that discussion to the wording of the Old American policy.
The Texas Supreme Court ultimately held that the phrase “insured named in the policy” was synonymous with “named insured” in the UM and PIP statutes. In so holding it was ruled that Ms. Sanchez’s signed reject of UM and PIP coverages, also excluded those coverages for Mr. Sanchez.