Wadeer v. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co. – Recovery of Damages for “Phantom Vehicle” Accident

Uninsured motorist coverage in North Carolina provides a way to recover damages sustained in an auto accident when the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance. (In cases where the driver does have insurance, but it’s not enough to cover the damages, the type of coverage sought is underinsured motorist coverage.)
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These policies do cover hit-and-run accidents, where one vehicle strikes another and the at-fault driver is never identified or located. However, “phantom” vehicle situations are tougher.

These are cases in which one driver causes another to leave the roadway, but there is never an actual impact and the at-fault driver does not stop. It is not necessary for the unidentified vehicle to make contact with yours in order to collect coverage. However, it’s likely the insurance company will challenge your claim to coverage, particularly if there were no other witnesses to the incident.

Having an experienced injury attorney in Asheville to help you meet the necessary burden of proof to obtain coverage will be key.

The recent case of Wadeer v. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co. revealed it is possible to collect compensation in these cases, though not usually without a fight.

According to New Jersey Supreme Court records, plaintiff sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident that happened while he was attempting to avoid an unidentified vehicle. He had an insurance policy with defendant that included $100,000 in UM and UIM coverage, which he sought to collect. However, defendant company refused to attempt a settlement with plaintiff and the parties proceeded to arbitration, per the policy terms.

Arbitration panel determined plaintiff held 30 percent of responsibility for the wreck, while the “phantom” vehicle was 70 percent responsible. Plaintiff was awarded $87,500.

However, defendant refused to pay that amount, and instead demanded a trial. Plaintiff’s lawyer acknowledged rejection of arbitration award and informed defendant he believed such action amounted to bad faith. (This is when an insurance company does not deal fairly with its customers, and it’s a serious violation that can result in triple damages paid to insured.)

Plaintiff offered to settle for $95,000, reiterating a believe defendant’s conduct was in bad faith, but defendant refused.

Case proceeded to trial, where jurors found phantom vehicle 100 percent liable, and ordered defendant to pay a total of nearly $223,000, which trial judge later reduced to policy maximum of $100,000. At that time, plaintiff argued defendant acted in bad faith and requested trial court impose the full amount, but the judge found defendant had not acted in bad faith and therefore declined to impose higher than the policy limit.

Still, plaintiff will receive the full $100,000 policy limit for injuries sustained during his encounter with the “phantom” vehicle.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Wadeer v. N.J. Mfrs. Ins. Co., Feb. 18, 2015, New Jersey Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
Powell v. Christopherson – $500k Car Accident Injury Verdict Affirmed, Jan. 12, 2015, Asheville Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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