Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Indiana car accident case discussing whether a man who was killed by an uninsured driver was covered under his employer’s car insurance policy. Finding that the policy did not include the employee as a covered person under the terms of the contract, and finding that the terms of the contract were clear, the court rejected the estate’s claim against the insurance company.
The plaintiff was the estate of a man (“decedent”) who was killed while he was mowing his lawn. Evidently, the decedent was mowing his lawn when a driver who was high on methamphetamine struck him. The at-fault driver did not have car insurance.
The decedent’s employer had an insurance policy that contained uninsured motorist (UIM) protection. Additionally, the decedent was named as a “listed driver” in that policy. However, that policy provided that UIM coverage was extended only to “you and others we protect.” In this case, “you” referred to the decedent’s employer, as the insured.
The estate argued that the term “others we protect” should be read to include the decedent, as an employee of the company that took out the policy. The trial court agreed and resolved the case in the estate’s favor. The insurance company appealed up to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court’s Opinion
The Indiana Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision, finding that the term “others we protect” was beyond judicial interpretation because it was clearly defined in the contract itself. The court explained that under Indiana law, a court can only provide its interpretation to ambiguous contractual terms; those terms that are clearly defined or are clear from the context of the contract are beyond judicial interpretation.
Here, the court explained, that the term “others we protect” was defined immediately below the paragraph where the UIM benefits were discussed. The definition of the term described four covered classes of accident victims, none of which included the decedent. Thus, because the term was specifically defined, the court concluded that the term was beyond judicial interpretation.
The estate argued that the decedent, as a listed driver on the policy, should be included within the definition of “others we protect.” However, the court made a distinction between a “listed driver” and someone who was covered under the terms of the policy, again, by referring to the term “others we protect.” The court sympathized with the accident victim, but, in the end, held that the estate was not eligible for coverage under the employer’s insurance plan.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent injury victims in a wide range of Indiana personal injury cases, including car accident claims involving contested insurance coverage. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule your free consultation and to speak with an attorney about your case. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
Jury Must Determine if Plaintiff’s Delay in Notifying Insurance Company of Accident was Excused, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, July 5, 2018
Trial Judge Improperly Weighs Evidence During Summary Judgment Motion in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, June 18, 2018