Articles Posted in Uninsured/Underinsured Coverage

Mineral Wells attorneys who handle underinsured motorist claims need to read this Austin Court of Appeals opinion.  It is styled, Johnson v. State Farm Automobile Insurance Company.

This suit arises from a suit brought by Jerry Johnson seeking declarations construing the terms of two insurance policies following an automobile accident in which Jerry’s son, Jacob, was injured while Jerry was driving.

In 2008, Jerry and Jacob were traveling in Colorado in a rented car driven by Jerry when Jerry caused an accident which severely injured his 11 year old son. Jacob.  Jacob lived with his parents at the time of the accident and remained in the home until May 29, 2015, when he permanently moved out of the residence.  Jerry had an auto policy and an umbrella policy with State Farm.  The auto policy contains a provision, the “family member exclusion,” that excludes from liability coverage bodily injury to “any family member, except to the extent of the minimum limits of Liability Coverage required” by the Texas Motor Vehicle Safety-Responsibility Act, which was $25,000 at the time.  “Family member” is defined as “a person who is a resident of your household and related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption.”  The umbrella policy has a similar provision.  Jerry sought coverage under both policies.  State Farm refused coverage beyond the $25,000.00 minimum.

Most insurance lawyers know this – – that a first party uninsured motorist claim cannot litigate bad faith until there has been a resolution to the uninsured motorist (UM) part of the claim.  This is illustrated in the February 2017, opinion from the 14th Court of Appeals styled, In Re Allstate County Mutual Insurance Company.

Allstate was sued for UM benefits and at the same time sued for extra-contractual bad faith claims.  The Judge in the case would not sever and abate the extra-contractual causes of action from the UM claim and this mandamus action resulted.

The real party in interest, Alexa St. Julian was involved in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver.  Alexa was unable to reach a settlement with Allstate, who had made a settlement offer, and the lawsuit resulted.  Allstate sought for the UM claim to severed and abated from the extra-contractual claims.

Most insurance lawyers already know the law regarding uninsured (UIM) claims and extra-contractual damages.  A Dallas Court of Appeals opinion restates it.  The opinion is, In Re Geico Advantage Insurance Company and Celia Stefl.

This is a mandamus proceeding wherein the real party in interest, Marion Thorpe, sued Geico and Stefl to recover uninsured motorist benefits and extra-contractual damages following a motor vehicle accident.  The trial court denied Geico’s request for a bifurcated trial and this mandamus action resulted.

Mandamus relief is appropriate when a trial court abuses its discretion in denying a motion to sever and abate extra-contractual claims in an UIM case.

Lawyers who handle uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM) cases need to read this 2016, Corpus Christi Court of Appeals opinion.  The case is styled, In re Luna.

In this UM case, the Court conditionally granted a petition for mandamus where the insured sought to obtain the deposition of State Farm’s corporate representative.   In this case, Luna originally sued Armando Antunez, the intoxicated, uninsured motorist who caused Luna to sustain severe injuries.    Luna also sued State Farm for UM benefits and for extra-contractual claims.  The Court severed all three cases from each other and abated the UM and the extra-contractual case during the case against Antunez. 

During the original case filed against Antunez, Luna requested the deposition of State Farm’s corporate representative.   The trial court denied that request, and Luna did not challenge the Court’s decision in the case against Antunez.    Eventually, Luna took a default judgment against Antunez and began prosecuting the UM case against State Farm.  

An insurance law lawyer might be asked how uninsured motorist coverage works with workers compensation insurance.  One way that it works is explained in a 2016, Austin Court of Appeals opinion.  The opinion is styled Soledad v. Texas Farm Bureau.

Soledad was a passenger in a vehicle owned and leased by her employer, Schneider National Carriers, when it was involved in a single vehicle accident.  Jeff Noe, a fellow employee, was driving the vehicle.  Both were working with Schneider at the time of the accident, which was the result of Noe’s negligence.  Soledad suffered injuries.

Soledad had uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on her own personal vehicle with Farm Bureau.  Schneider had workers compensation insurance on its employees and also had liability coverage on its vehicles.

Attorneys handling uninsured / underinsured claims will find this article from the Claims Journal interesting.  The law discussed in the article is Missouri law but Texas law is similar and the results would probably be the same in Texas.  The article is titled, UIM Endorsement Doesn’t Cover Worker Injured While Not Occupying Employer’s Truck.

On October 6, 2016 the U. S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, applying Missouri law, granted a summary judgment for Travelers Property & Casualty Company of America, after holding that the injured plaintiff was not insured by Travelers because at the time of the accident he was not occupying the vehicle that struck him.  The decision is titled Spiller v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America.

The facts were straightforward.  Plaintiff was employed by a repaving contractor and was responsible for caulking  along a 12 mile stretch of a four lane highway.  While plaintiff was working on the roadway, he was followed by a truck with a flashing arrow, warning traffic approaching from the rear to move to the left lane because there was construction work in the right lane.  After several hours of work one day, the arrow board attached to the truck was struck from behind by another vehicle driven by one Paul Owens.  The force of the collision caused the truck following plaintiff to strike and injure him.

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.

Garner and Brock insurance lawyers who handle underinsured claims need to read this opinion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The opinion is styled, Gaspar Gonzalez v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company.

Gonzalez sued Philadelphia for underinsured motorist benefits after Philadelphia refused to pay the benefits because Gonzalez failed to follow the requirements in an endorsement to his policy.  The endorsement expressly excluded “any claim settled without Philadelphia’s consent,” unless the “insured” gave Philadelphia “prompt written notice” of any “tentative settlement” and Philadephia “advanced payment to the ‘insured’ in an amount equal to the tentative settlement within 30 days after receipt of notification.”

Gonzalez had settled the case with the responsible third party for their limits of $25,000 prior to Gonzalez seeking underinsured benefits from Philadelphia.  Gonzalez filed suit against Philadelphia for breach of the insurance contract in State Court and Philadelphia removed the case to Federal Court.

Lawsuits involving claims for uninsured/underinsured (UIM) benefits are in their own little category for the way the courts handle them.  This is illustrated in a 2016, Tyler Court of Appeals opinion titled, In Re: AAA Texas County Mutual Insurance Company.

Vehicles driven by Thomas Jackson and Patricia Tompkins collided.  Jackson filed a claim for UIM benefits with AAA.  He later filed a lawsuit against AAA for breach of the insurance contract, violations of the DTPA, the Texas Insurance Code, and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing.  AAA filed a motion to sever and abate the extracontractual claims and the just denied the motion.  This Mandamus action resulted.

AAA argued the judge abused his discretion in not allowing the case to be severed and abated.

Dallas insurance lawyers understand that a key to being able to help a client is understanding how courts interpret insurance policies. A 14th Court of Appeals opinion gives some insight. The style of the case is, Farmers Insurance Exchange and Allstate County Mutual v. Rodriguez.

The following facts are undisputed. Using a trailer hitched to his pickup truck, Woodling transported a deer stand from his deer lease to his residence. He pulled into his driveway and attempted to remove the deer stand from the trailer. He pushed the deer stand out of the trailer until the legs on the stand touched the driveway. He left the stand resting at a 30-degree angle against the trailer. He then attached a come-along 2 to a fence post and to the stand and attempted to raise the stand upright. Realizing he could not accomplish the task alone, he requested assistance from his neighbor, Rodriguez.

Rodriguez and Woodling decided to lift the stand manually by walking forward out of the trailer and onto the driveway. They began in the trailer, each using both hands to push the stand upward. Then they stepped onto the driveway and took “one or two” more steps. When the stand was no longer touching the trailer, Woodling realized it was too heavy and yelled, “Juan, I can’t hold it. Jump.” Woodling then jumped away, leaving Rodriguez alone to hold the stand, which weighed approximately 350 pounds. The stand fell, and Rodriguez was injured.