Articles Posted in Auto Insurance

Insurance attorneys need to read an August 2017, opinion from the 14th Court of Appeals.  It is styled, Tiffany Falkenhagen Thompson v. Geico Insurance Agency, Inc.

Texas Personal Automobile Policy’s require the policyholder to notify the insurer of the policyholder’s acquisition of a replacement vehicle for the coverage to extend to damage to the newly acquired vehicle.  This case is presented on cross motions for summary judgment regarding the notification requirement in the policy.  Tiffany says the policy provision does not apply to leased vehicles or alternatively, the policy language is ambiguous.  Geico says they were not timely notified of the replacement vehicle and thus, there is no coverage.  The trial court ruled in favor of Geico and this appeals court upholds that ruling.

Tiffany owned a 201  Infiniti G37 auto and secured insurance from Geico.  She traded in the G37 and leased a 2015 Infiniti Q50 auto.  A few months later while driving the Q50, Tiffany was involved in an accident.

Not just Kimble County automobile owners but everyone should be concerned about a story published recently in the New York Times.  It is titled, “Millions Live Where Car Insurance Is Unaffordable, Study Says.”

Millions of Americans live in areas where auto insurance is unaffordable according to a new analysis from the federal government.

The report, from the Federal Insurance Office, analyzed premiums for basic liability automobile coverage in more than 9,000 zip codes with high proportions of “underserved” consumers, including minorities and people with low to moderate incomes.  It found that rates were unaffordable in 845 of such zip codes, or about 9 percent of them.  Nearly 19 million people live in the unaffordable areas, the report found.

Benbrook insurance attorneys can discuss the penalties for delays in paying a claim. These penalties are spelled out in the Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act (TPPCL) and are found in the Texas Insurance Code.

The amount of an insured’s claim (and/or the amount for which an insurer is liable) is often based on third-party invoices that the insured has not incurred, in amounts the insured cannot necessarily predict, at the time the insured submits its notice of claim to the insurer. Consider duty to defend or environmental clean-up coverage, where the amount of the claim can increase every month.

Naturally, there are questions regarding when the 18% penalty begins to accrue on such claims. The TPPCA language does not provide specific guidance on these calculations, but courts in the Fifth Circuit have recently indicated the methodology is based on the date of the TPPCA violation and not necessarily the date the cost was incurred.

Total loss cases dealing with automobiles have certain rules that apply.  A Dallas Court of Appeals case discusses this issue.  The opinion is styled, Sunny Letot v. United Services Automobile Association.  There are multiple issues in this case but the opinion dealing with the total loss of an automobile is something many people will have the occasion to see.

The opinion is an appeal from a summary judgment in favor of USAA.  The part of the opinion dealing with total loss was reversed by this appeals court.

Letot was involved in a wreck that resulted in the total loss of her vintage 1983 Mercedes.  Letot was offered $2,494.02 by USAA which was rejected.  However, USAA still mailed a check for that amount and the check was returned.  The same day the check was mailed, USAA sent TxDoT a letter informing them the vehicle had been totaled.  Letot had the vehicle scrapped to avoid incurring further storage fees.  USAA later filed a report with TxDoT stating the initial report was filed in error.

Excluded drivers and Named Driver auto policies are the last thing someone wants to find out about the driver who caused the wreck. Here is some law that is helpful to know when an insurance company tells you the driver was not covered under the policy.

A starting point is the Texas Transportation Code, Section 601.076. This is contained in the Texas Driver Responsibility Act. Sec. 601.076. REQUIRED TERMS: OWNER’S POLICY. An owner’s motor vehicle liability insurance policy must:

(1) cover each motor vehicle for which coverage is to be granted under the policy; and (2) pay, on behalf of the named insured or another person who, as insured, uses a covered motor vehicle with the express or implied permission of the named insured, amounts the insured becomes obligated to pay as damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the motor vehicle in the United States or Canada, subject to the amounts, excluding interest and costs, and exclusions of Section 601.072.

Farmers Branch insurance lawyers will have a client walk in and say that their own insurance company has found them at fault for an accident and paid the other party. What can be done? A Dallas Court of Appeals case gives some insight. The style of the case is, Van K. Martin v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.

This is an appeal from a declaratory judgment action and an appeal from an adverse finding in a summary judgment.

Martin’s son was involved in an auto accident with another 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.

All insurance lawyers will tell you to make sure there is insurance on your auto. But guess what, criminal lawyers will tell you the same.

Let’s start with the insurance lawyers. A recent article from the Claims Journal discusses what is happening in the State of Louisiana. The article is titled, Louisiana Using New Tactics to Collect Fines for Insurance Lapses.

Louisiana has implemented new ways of collecting fines from people the state believes are driving without insurance.

Texas auto policy owners and their insurance lawyers need to know that the law discussed in this Missouri story is similar to the law in Texas. This story comes from the Claims Journal and is titled, Owned Vehicle Exclusion Defeats Underinsured Motorist Claim. Here is what the story says.

A U.S. district court in Missouri has rejected a policyholder’s strained interpretation of an “owned vehicle exclusion” standard in the underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage of automobile policies. The case, filed January 22, 2006, is entitled Walker v. Progressive Direct Ins.Co., et al., and ended in a judgment for the insurers, negating coverage.

The operative facts underlying the decision were not in dispute, so the parties made cross-motions for summary judgment. Steve and Ronda Walker, although married, were separated and had been living apart for three months by the time Steve was killed by a car driven by a third party while Steve was riding a motorcycle he alone owned. Although insured by Steve, the motorcycle policy had no UIM coverage. By contrast, Steve and Ronda were both named insureds on two auto policies issued by defendants, Progressive Direct and Progressive Max Insurance Companies (together, Progressive), with UIM coverage covering six vehicles, but not the motorcycle.

Insurance lawyers want to know when coverage is provided in the situations they are presented with. Who is covered when a car is being loaned or borrowed? That question is addressed in a 1967, Corpus Christi Court of Appeals case styled, Phoenix Insurance Company v. Allstate Insurance Company.

The material facts in evidence are undisputed. At all times relevant here, Phoenix was the insurer of a car owned by the named insured Ralph Gilster, Jr. Father Wallace J. Stiles, assistant pastor and Youth Director of St. Mary’s Church, Victoria, Texas, contacted Gilster for the purpose of borrowing this car on June 27th to return to their homes in Victoria six girls who were attending a Summer School of Catholic Action for Youth in Corpus Christi. Borrowing the car and returning the girls to their homes in Victoria was in line with Father Stiles’ duties as Youth Director, a fact which Gilster well knew. He had on a number of other occasions borrowed Gilster’s car for out of town trips in connection with such duties. Gilster knew the purpose for which Father Stiles wanted the car, and readily agreed with his request. The distance from Victoria to Corpus Christi and return is a total of 180 miles. Nothing was said between the two as to who would drive the car during the trip, nor had anything been said as to who should drive on any of the other occasions that Gilster had let Father Stiles use the car in his church work. Gilster testified that as a matter of fact, he didn’t give the matter of who would drive any thought; though he further stated that he considered that Father Stiles would be the one to take the car, use it, and bring it back. The words ‘use’ and ‘borrow’ were the terms used in the conversation between Gilster and Stiles, and no reference was made by either party as to who would actually operate the car.

On June 25th, two days before the trip to Corpus Christi, Father Stiles asked James DeLane to drive on this trip. It was agreed by both of the parties that Gilster had not given express permisson for James to drive; but Father Stiles after testifying about the former times he had borrowed Gilster’s car for such trips, on which occasions some one other than himself had driven, stated that he believed it all right that DeLane drive. James, 16 years of age, was president of the Church’s Catholic Youth Organization (C.Y.O.) He had obtained his drivers’ license two years before this, and frequently on these Church trips drove for Father Stiles, who considered him a very good and careful driver. On the morning of June 27th, James went to the Gilster residence, got the car keys from a servant and drove the car to the Rectory where he picked up Father Stiles, and they proceeded to Corpus Christi. They got the six girls and, with James DeLane driving, went back to Victoria. Father Stiles then instructed James to let him off at the Rectory where he had some church duties to perform, and to take the girls to their homes and then to return the car to Gilster’s home. While the girls were being delivered to their homes, an accident occurred between the car driven by James and one driven by Sandra Lou Barr and owned by her father. James had not deviated from his route at any time, and at the time of the accident was engaged in carrying out the instructions of Father Stiles, and in executing the purpose for which the car had been borrowed from Gilster. At a meeting between Gilster, Father Stiles and James DeLane in Gilster’s office two or three days after the accident Gilster made no adverse comment on the fact that James was driving at the time of the accident.

Arlington lawyers looking at insurance claims need to be aware of new laws governing the issuance of auto policies. The particular type of policy effected by these new laws are what are known as “Named Driver Automobile Insurance Policies” and knowing whether or not one of these policies is enforceable or not is necessary to properly advise a client about potential claims.

The new law is found in the Texas Insurance Code, Section 1952.0545 and says this:

REQUIRED DISCLOSURE REGARDING NAMED DRIVER POLICIES; PERSONS IN INSURED’S HOUSEHOLD.