Articles Posted in Underinsured Motorist (“UIM”) Claims

In a case determined in September 2022, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided an important and common issue for injury victims when dealing with their own insurance in its opinion in Erie Insurance Exchange v. Craighead. Many drivers who are injured as a result of an underinsured motorist turn to their own underinsured motorist coverage and medical payments coverage to help them recover. It is what they paid for and is there to protect them in the event they are injured by an underinsured motorist.

Medical payments coverage is a type of insurance coverage that helps pay for medical bills if injured in an accident. Underinsured motorist coverage provides coverage where an at-fault driver in a crash has liability insurance, but the available coverage to compensate the injured victim is less than the underinsured coverage available under the victim’s underinsured motorist coverage. Because many drivers take the road with the minimum required coverage under the law ($25,000 per person/$50,000 for any one accident), these two coverages are indispensable to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Because many insurance companies attempt to pay the least amount possible, even to their own policyholders, many insurance companies will attempt to set off the payments made from the medical payments coverage and reduce the amount of compensation available to the victim under the underinsured motorist coverage. This is just a small illustration of why it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney who is willing to fight for injury victims and ensure they receive full and just compensation.

When someone is involved in an Indiana car accident that was caused by another driver, there is a good chance that the at-fault driver will not have adequate insurance coverage to fully compensate the accident victim for their injuries. This is also the case in Indiana hit-and-run accidents where the at-fault driver evades law enforcement and is never located.

In these cases, if the accident victim has an insurance policy with underinsured motorist (UIM) protection, they can file a claim with their own policy seeking additional compensation. However, in Indiana, the minimum requirement for UIM insurance is just $25,000 per person. Thus, in some serious Indiana car accidents, the accident victim’s total damages will exceed both the at-fault driver’s insurance limits as well as their own UIM insurance limits.

When these policies are maxed out, many accident victims may believe that they are out of options. However, that may not be the case. Under Indiana law, the default is that all insurance policies will “stack,” meaning that a policy can be used along with another policy that offers coverage to the driver. Thus, an Indiana accident victim who has multiple insurance policies can combine, or “stack,” all coverage amounts until they are fully compensated. Thus, it is very important for an accident victim to know each of the policies that they are covered under, including other family members’ policies and employers’ policies.

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A motorcyclist who suffered severe injuries in a traffic collision may collect underinsured motorist benefits under several policies, the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruled in Manner v. Schiermeier, No. SC92408, slip op. (Mo., Jan. 8, 2013). The court rejected the argument of the two defendant insurers that exclusions for “owned vehicles” precluded coverage of the plaintiff’s vehicle. It found that neither insurer expressly defined “owned” in its policies, and that they did not meet their burden of proof regarding the exclusions. The court also allowed “stacking” of the policies, which could entitle the plaintiff to the maximum coverage amount under each policy.

Nathaniel Manner was seriously injured in an accident with Nicholas Schiermeier in September 2004. Schiermeier’s vehicle struck Manner’s Yamaha motorcycle while he was riding it. After Manner filed suit, Schiermeier’s insurer paid him $100,000, the maximum coverage amount. The insurer agreed with Manner that his total damages equaled $1.5 million, leaving Manner with a substantial amount of unpaid damages. Manner therefore filed claims on four policies that named him as a beneficiary, each of which had $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. Manner had purchased three policies from American Family Mutual Insurance Company for the Yamaha motorcycle and two Ford pickup trucks. He also made a claim as an additional insured on his father’s policy from American Standard Insurance Company for a Suzuki motorcycle.

Manner added the insurance companies to his lawsuit as defendants after they denied coverage, claiming a total of $400,000. In a motion for summary judgment, the insurers argued that Manner was excluded from coverage on the the pickup truck and Suzuki motorcycle policies. Each policy had an owned-vehicle exclusion that excluded bodily injury claims involving a vehicle that the insured, or anyone in the insured’s household, owns, and that is not directly covered by the policy. The owned-vehicle exclusions applied to the Yamaha, the insurers claimed, because Manner owned it and it was not insured under any of the three policies. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants, and Manner appealed.
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