Your Auto Insurance And Who’s At Fault

The Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion in October 2016, that needs to be read by Dallas and Fort Worth insurance lawyers.  It is styled, Van K. Martin v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.

This is a summary judgment appeal.

Martin’s son was involved in an auto accident with State Farm insured, Jeffery Lonsdale.  No one was injured in the accident, but Lonsdale filed a claim for property damage, which was submitted to State Farm under Part A of Martin’s liability policy.  Martin filed a claim for property damage to his vehicle under Part D of the policy.  State Farm settled Lonsdale’s claim and provided coverage for the property damage to Martin’s vehicle.  Martin alleges that State Farm unreasonably concluded his son was primarily responsible for the accident without interviewing Martin’s son or other witnesses in the car.  Martin alleges he paid the deductible to have his vehicle repaired and paid “incremental semi-annual premiums” related to the accident.

Martin sued State Farm and sought a declaration State farm acted unreasonably in determining the responsible party.  State Farm moved for summary judgement on grounds that it did not breach the contract and attached a copy of the policy as evidence.

Martin cited the relevant policy language under Parts A and D for support of their position.

The record indicates State Farm paid Martin’s claim under Part D of the policy.  The policy specifically provides, “We will pay for direct and accidental loss to your covered auto, including its equipment, less any applicable deductible shown in the Declarations.”  Requiring Martin to pay the deductible required by the policy was not a breach of contract.

The policy expressly allows State Farm to “settle or defend, as we consider appropriate, any claim or suit asking for these damages.”

Regarding a first-party claim by Martin on his policy for property damage to his vehicle, there is no evidence State Farm breached a duty of good faith and fair dealing.  The record indicates State Farm accepted Martin’s property damage claim and paid for the damage less Martin’s deductible as required by the terms of the policy.  Because State Farm paid the claim and there is no evidence or argument that it unreasonably delayed payment of the claim, there is no evidence to support Martin’s claim that State Farm violated any common law duty of good faith and fair dealing.