Indiana Court Finds in Favor of Estate in Fatal Uninsured Motorist Recovery Lawsuit
The Indiana Supreme Court recently issued a decision in a lawsuit filed by the estate of a deceased individual against an insurance company. The case arose after the individual suffered fatal injuries in an accident caused by two negligent drivers. On behalf of her estate, her personal representative settled the claims for $75,000 with the at-fault parties. Additionally, the personal representative received settlements of $25,000 under the underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage from the woman’s carrier.
The issue arose after the estate requested additional coverage under the woman’s parents’ insurance policy. Her parent’s policy provided coverage of up to $100,000 per person for bodily injury or death. The insurance company opposed the claim arguing that the woman was not a “resident relative” under the policy and in the alternative, even if she was a resident relative, the policy’s offset and anti-stacking provisions bar recovery.
Under the insurance company’s policy, a “resident relative” is a relative who actually resides in the insurer’s home with the intent to continue living there. In this case, the woman packed up her and her children’s belongings, moved them into her parents’ home, officially updated her address, and described the residence as her “new home.”
The insurance company argued that the woman was not insured under the policy because the parents did not provide the defendant with notice, despite the policy’s specific requirement to do so. The family argued that the policy states that the requirement was only necessary if the resident relative is an “operator.” The insurance company did not define what the term meant. In failing to do so, the court interpreted it to be mean the person who will be operating a vehicle covered under the policy. In this case, the court reasoned that the woman was not an operator. The woman had her own car, and the parents did not anticipate that she would operate either of their vehicles. Ultimately, the court concluded that the family did not need to provide notice because the woman was not a relative operator.
Next, the court considered the policy’s anti-stacking and offset term. The court found that the insurance company’s anti-stacking clause only prevents the combination of UIM policy limits and does not prevent the insured from aggregating more than one UIM recovery. Further, the court found that the defendant’s $100,000 per person UIM limits are offset by the $75,000 the estate received from the at-fault parties’ insurance companies.
In making its findings, the court held that the estate is correct in their assertion that the woman was an “insured person”, thereby allowing them to collect $25,000 in further UIM coverage under the parents’ insurance policy.
Have You Been Involved in a Dispute with an Indiana Insurance Company?
If you or someone you love has been involved in a car, truck, or pedestrian accident caused by another’s negligence, contact Padove Law. Attorney Burton A. Padove has a history of successfully representing Indiana motor vehicle accident victims and protecting the legal rights of his clients at every stage of the recovery process. He understands the devastating toll that accidents can have on an injury victim and their loved ones. He uses his skills, knowledge, and resources to effectively advocate on behalf of clients against negligent parties and their insurance companies. If you have been involved in a personal injury accident in Indiana, contact Padove Law at 877-446-5294, to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. You can also reach Padove Law through their online form.