Kentucky Appeals Court affirms verdict in favor of insured in Underinsured Motorist case

by Mandy Hicks

If you don’t have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, you should talk to your insurance agent about purchasing this very important coverage as soon as you can. Such coverage can mean the difference between a fair recovery and financial ruin in the event of a serious accident with a driver who has no insurance or who has only the minimum policy limits.

However, should you ever need to actually use your uninsured or underinsured coverage, do not expect your insurance company to be on “your side” of the case.

Facts of the CaseIn a recent decision (unreported), the Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals was called upon to review the decision of the Franklin Circuit Court in an underinsured motorist case involving two trials. The accident in question occurred in 2006. A 13-year-old girl, who was riding as a passenger in her mother’s car, was allegedly injured after the car was struck from behind on Interstate 64.

The girl settled her negligence claim against the driver at fault in the crash for the liability limits of $25,000. The mother had two underinsured motorist insurance policies at the time of the accident. In 2013, the girl filed suit against the UIM carrier, claiming that her injuries and damages had exceeded the amount of her settlement with the at-fault driver. A 2014 trial resulted in a verdict in the girl’s favor in the amount of $15,000; after set-offs, the judgment was reduced to $0. The trial court granted the girl’s motion for a new trial.

A second trial in 2015 resulted in a judgment of $21,087, after set-offs. The UIM carrier’s motion for a new trial was denied, and it appealed.

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The appellate court affirmed the Franklin Circuit Court’s decision, rejecting the UIM carrier’s argument that the trial court’s decision to allow the insurance contract into evidence was prejudicial, confusing, and irrelevant and that a certain letter to a physical therapist should have been excluded because it concerned the girl’s basic reparation benefits.

With regard to the UIM carrier’s argument that the trial court had erred in changing certain jury instructions between the two trials, the court noted that the two trials were not “one and the same,” and the instructions in the second trial appropriately informed the jury that they were to only award damages for injuries that proximately resulted from the accident.

Need Assistance with a Kentucky Car Accident?

Despite state laws mandating at least minimum liability coverage, there are still many drivers who do not have automobile liability insurance coverage or whose liability policy limits are so low that a full settlement of an injured party’s negligence claim is not possible in many cases. If you find yourself in this situation, you and your insurance company will be on opposite sides of the dispute should the case proceed to trial. This is because UM and UIM carriers actually “stand in the shoes” of the negligent motorist and usually make every effort to minimize the amount of compensation that the insured receives.

To talk to a knowledgeable Kentucky car accident attorney about your claim, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley at (270) 781-6500 to schedule a free consultation in our Bowling Green offices.

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