As noted by the Indiana Department of Insurance, each newly written Indiana auto liability policy must include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage – unless it is rejected by the insured in writing. These limits mirror those of bodily injury liability (what you pay if you’re at fault for someone else’s injuries), with stipulated minimums being $25,000 per person and $50,000 per crash.
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects you in the event you are struck by an at-fault driver who does not have insurance or who fled in a hit-and-run accident. But just because you have this coverage does not mean you will be automatically entitled to collect it after a collision. Your Indiana car accident attorney will need to show:
- The driver who struck you was negligent/at fault for the crash;
- Neither the driver nor the automobile had auto insurance coverage (or enough coverage), OR you were unable to identify the driver; and
- You suffered damages as a result of the crash.
In a recent case before the Indiana Court of Appeals, a plaintiff who suffered injuries in a rear-end collision was unable to collect UM damages because she failed to prove an essential element in her case, which was that both the driver AND the vehicle lacked any type of auto insurance coverage.
According to court records in the case, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light at around 8 p.m. when her vehicle was rear-ended by another driver. The plaintiff was injured as a result, and she subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, alleging negligence. She also asserted a claim for uninsured motorist benefits against her own insurance provider (the defendant in the present case).
The trial court found against the defendant driver, deeming him liable and ultimately deciding the plaintiff suffered $170,000 in damages. However, the plaintiff’s UM insurance carrier moved for judgment on the issue of uninsured motorist benefits. The plaintiff sought to re-open the evidence to ask questions of her insurance agent related to whether her insurance contract contained UM benefits. The judge denied the motion and decided the case in favor of the insurer, determining she had not met the proof burden necessary to establish her right to UM benefits.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued the court erred in refusing her request to question the insurance agent. The appellate court affirmed, finding that the court didn’t err, but even if it had, this would not have resolved the issue of her failure to meet the proof burden because she had not introduced evidence indicating that the vehicle driven by the defendant was not insured.
The court noted that to successfully raise a claim for uninsured motorist benefits in Indiana, an insured must establish the fault of the tortfeasor, the fact that there is no insurance policy covering the motorist or motor vehicle, and resulting damages. She relied on the allegation set forth in her claim against the defendant driver, which involved the assertion that the driver was not insured at the time of the crash. However, there was nothing in the record to indicate the vehicle itself was not covered by some insurance policy. For this reason, the claim for UM benefits failed.
The case highlights why it is so critically important to hire an experienced car accident attorney to handle your crash-related injury claim.
Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
Owens v. Caudillo and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., Aug. 2, 2018, Indiana Court of Appeals
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