Burden Of Proof For Uninsured Coverage

Insurance lawyers as well as all other lawyers understand that reading the law is not enough. It has to be researched to find changes and facts that may exist. Read all the way to the end to understand this. But first here is a case to read. It is a 1970, Texas Supreme Court opinion styled, State Farm v. Matlock. Here is the relevant information.
The Matlocks suffered injuries in an accident with a car driven by a man identified in this 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 direct action 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. The Matlocks obtained a judgment in the courts below.
State Farm is before this court upon points which urge that the Matlocks failed to obtain a judgment against the uninsured motorist. It says that a judgment against the uninsured motorist is a condition precedent to the Matlocks’ action against State Farm. State Farm also has a point, which it insistently urges in its motion for rehearing, that the Matlocks failed to prove that the driver of the other vehicle was an uninsured motorist. The Court was convinced that State Farm is correct in the contention that the Matlocks failed to discharge their burden of proof in this latter proposition citing:
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 the 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.
Mr. Matlock was the only person who testified about the uninsured status of the driver 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 name of the other driver, but he identified him in this record only as a man with one leg. Plaintiff did not prove the make, model, or license number of the other vehicle, and this information was easily available. Here is quoted 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 objected to the answer as hearsay and because there was no proof that Oxford had authority to make statements and admissions that were binding upon State Farm. The trial court overruled the objections. 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 is no other proof of Oxford’s agency powers.
The Court concluded that the Matlocks failed to prove that the other operator was an uninsured motorist.
Now read this:
The insurer has the burden of proof in a dispute as to whether a motor vehicle is uninsured.
This is a change in the law that occurred in 2007 and is found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1952.110.
This is an example where the law changed. What was the common law, i.e. that the insured had to prove the other driver was uninsured has changed is now changed by statute. Now the insurance company has to prove the the other driver is insured in order to properly deny benefits.

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