December 15, 2012--Nebraska, USA--The Supreme Court recently reversed a lower court's decision and forced an insurance company to pay the claim of a young woman who was injured by an uninsured drunk driver.
The plaintiff in Wheeler v. Farmers Mut. Ins. Co. of Neb. was struck by a person who had no liability and was driving drunk at the time of the accident. The car the plaintiff was driving was owned by her father, who had a policy insuring against uninsured motorist damage. The father's company paid $100,000 in damages through the uninsured motorist policy. However, that amount did not fully compensate the plaintiff for the injuries she sustained in the accident.
Plaintiff subsequently filed a claim with her mother's company, Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Nebraska. That claim covered the plaintiff as an insured person in any car she drove. However, Farmers denied the claim because it said that there was an "owned-but-not-insured" exclusion in the mother's policy.
A circuit court agreed with the insurance company, denying the plaintiff's claim on summary judgment. However, the Supreme Court reversed this decision, stating that the company could not exclude the claim under an "owned-but-not-insured" clause.
This case outlines a common problem that people experience when they have to file claims against insurance companies. Insurance bad faith claims are difficult for the average person because he or she often feels helpless when dealing with a large insurance company. Most people tend to believe insurance companies when they say that a certain claim is excluded from a policy. Even if they do not believe this, they have no idea what to do in order to exercise their rights under the policy and force the insurance company to pay.
In many cases, more than one insurance company may be liable for the same accident. For example, in the present case, the court ruled that a second insurance company was responsible for the balance of payment for injuries once the policy limits of one policy are exhausted. However, the second insurance company denied this liability and tried to avoid payment of the damages under the policy's terms.
This is why it is so important for victims of insurance company bad faith to retain the services of a personal injury attorney in West Virginia. A personal injury lawyer can provide the legal expertise necessary to make sense of complicated insurance policies and addendums. Further, a personal injury attorney can give victims advice on which insurance policies should cover their injuries when more than one insurer is involved.
Source: Justia Law, "Wheeler v. Farmers Mut. Ins. Co. of Neb.," December 7, 2012.
Chris Heavens is a personal injury lawyer in Charleston, West Virginia, who also practices law in Pennsylvania. Chris Heavens has had success in recovering damages in several insurance bad faith cases as well as many other types of personal injury cases. If you have a personal injury issue, contact Heavens Law Offices today for your free consultation.