Sorting through the complex language of an auto insurance policy is the last thing grieving family members want to do when they’ve lost their loved one in a crash. This is why it’s so important to have an experienced injury lawyer advocating on your behalf at the very outset.
Although we cannot guarantee coverage, we can work to help you dispute denials or counter low-ball offers. We can help you determine when it’s in your best interest to accept a settlement, and when it makes more sense to take the fight to a jury. Insurance companies are always going to be looking out for their bottom line – even when you are enduring the devastating loss of a loved one.
The recent case of Edens v. Netherlands Insurance is no exception. This was an appeal out of Oklahoma heard recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. This case was about two parents seeking collection of $1 million in underinsured motorist benefits following the motorcycle accident death of their son. The policy in question was in the parents’ names, but the son was covered as a member of insured’s family. However, because the couple also owned the motorcycle the son was riding at the time of the crash, it was held that the policy didn’t cover the action due to an exclusion provision.
According to court records, 22-year-old decedent was killed while driving a motorcycle owned by his parents. One day in May 2013, as the young man was northbound on a two-way street, a southbound woman turned left in front of his oncoming motorcycle. Unable to avoid the collision, the young man was pronounced dead at the scene.
The motorcycle was insured under a policy with Progressive. The at-fault driver’s vehicle was insured by State Farm.
The following September, plaintiffs, though their attorney, notified insurer Netherlands of the accident. Netherlands provided a policy issued to the company owned by decedent’s father, who was CEO. Plaintiffs asserted that because the father was the owner of the company, his son was a named insurer – and he was actually listed on the policy. Plaintiffs demanded the $1 million UIM policy limit.
Insurer told plaintiffs it needed more information, including records that verified the son’s relationship with the business as well as funeral invoice copies and copies of any other insurance coverage the couple had on the motorcycle. In November, the insurer drafted and sent a letter denying coverage, asserting the young man wasn’t qualified as an insured on the UM policy.
Plaintiffs filed a claim against the insurer, alleging the insurer failed to properly investigate the motorcycle accident claim and acted negligently in denying it.
Both parties moved for summary judgment.
District court granted insurer’s summary judgment motion, citing a policy provision that blocked UM coverage from insureds who were injured by occupying a vehicle owned by the father’s company. So although the son would qualify as an insured, the fact that he was riding a motorcycle owned by his father, the claim was rejected.
Plaintiffs appealed, but the 10th Circuit affirmed, finding no error. They rejected plaintiff’s claims that the policy language was ambiguous.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Edens v. Netherlands Insurance , Aug. 22, 2016, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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