Suing The Other Insurance Company

Grand Prairie insurance lawyers and those in Fort Worth, Dallas, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, and other places in Tarrant County would normally know when the other guy’s insurance company can be sued directly. Most people do not realize that when someone causes harm to another, such as when a person drives their car into the back of someone else’s car, that the claim is against the driver of the car, not the insurance company of the person driving the car. If you think about it – the insurance company did not do anything wrong – it was the driver who did something wrong, i.e., wasn’t paying attention to where they were going. So the claim is against the driver. The driver though, hopefully, has a contract with an insurance company that essentially says, “driver if you do something wrong while driving your car, we, the insurance company, will pay for that wrong.”
However, there are exceptions to being able to sue the insurance company directly rather than suing the driver.
The Tyler Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a case on May 23, 2012, wherein the injured party was trying to make one of the exceptions. The style of the case is, Brian W. Haygood v. Hawkeye Insurance Services, Inc. Here is some background.
Haygood appealed from a summary judgment in favor of Hawkeye.
On May 17, 2008, Haygood’s wife, Julie, was driving their vehicle when she was struck from behind by Patricia Anderson. Anderson had insurance with Old American. Hawkeye is the managing general agent for Old American.
The Haygood vehicle was determined to be a total loss. Over the next two years, Brian Haygood attempted to have Hawkeye pay for the value of the vehicle. There were extensive negotiations but no settlement was reached.
On May 17, 2010, Haygood filed suit against Anderson. On June 21, 2010, Haygood sued Hawkeye, alleging it had breached three oral contracts during their settlement negotiations. The summary judgment in favor of Hawkeye resulted.
Haygood’s argument / response to the motion was that the trial court misunderstood the nature of the claims, arguing that there had been a binding oral agreement, which Hawkeye breached.
This appeals court discussed the case pointing out that a liability policy obligates an insurer to indemnify a covered loss from the insured’s own legal liability. That a party injured by the insured is a third party beneficiary of a liability policy. But in Texas, the general rule is that the third party cannot enforce the policy directly against the insurer until the insured’s obligation to pay has been finally determined either by judgment agains the insured after actual trial or by written agreement of the insured, the claimant, and the company. That the insurer’s duty to indemnify its insured does not arise until the third party has secured such an agreement or a judgment against the insured.
In ruling for Hawkeye, the court pointed out there is no evidence in the record to show that Anderson had either entered into a written agreement with Haygood and Hawkeye as to her liability or that Haygood had a judgment against her. Without either, Haygood did not have standing to pursue an action under Anderson’s policy against Hawkeye.
This case is a little confusing in that there are circumstances under which Haygood could have pursued this claim. An experienced Insurance Law Attorney needs to be involved in these types of cases.