Kentucky Court holds that case qualifies for Underinsured Motorist Coverage

by Mandy Hicks

It is always a good idea to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage insurance, but settling a UM/UIM claim can be more complicated than it might initially seem. This is true even when the claimant is the insured person, but settlements can be even more difficult when a person other than the insured is seeking to recover UM/UIM benefits.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals was recently presented with a rather unusual UIM case filed by the friend of the insured under a policy issued by State Farm.

The Facts of the Case

In the (unpublished) case of Jackson v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, the plaintiff was a man who was struck by an automobile while talking to a friend in a parking lot. Just before the impact, the plaintiff was leaning his head into the passenger window of his friend’s vehicle. The plaintiff’s arms were on the door. At the time he was struck, the plaintiff had raised his head out of the window but still had his hands on the passenger door. After allegedly being struck twice by the other vehicle, the plaintiff fell to the ground, leaving dents in the roof and door of his friend’s car.

The plaintiff received basic reparation benefits (as a pedestrian) and liability limits from another insurance company. He then sued his friend’s underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance carrier, asserting that he was an occupant of his friend’s car at the time of the accident and that he was thus covered under his friend’s UIM policy. The Graves Circuit Court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint on the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that he was not an “occupant” of the vehicle and thus did not qualify for UIM coverage. In particular, the trial court found that the plaintiff was neither “vehicle oriented” nor using the vehicle as a conveyance.

The Decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals Upon Review 

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to the defendant and remanded the case for further proceedings. First, the court determined that the plaintiff was, despite the trial court’s opinion to the contrary, “vehicle oriented” because he had his hands on the car and was talking to the driver through the window about getting a ride (to which the driver had consented, although the plaintiff had not yet gotten inside the vehicle). The court also found that the plaintiff was “occupying” the subject vehicle under the terms of the defendant’s policy (which included being “on” or “entering” the insured automobile) and that his act of identifying himself as a pedestrian to the other insurance company did not waive his right to be fully compensated by all responsible insurers, including the defendant herein.

For Advice About a Kentucky or Tennessee Car Accident Lawsuit

Car accident cases can be difficult, especially when UM or UIM insurance is involved. The results-oriented Kentucky car and truck accident attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley can help you assert a claim against a negligent driver, a UM/UIM carrier, or both. Call us for a free consultation at (270) 781-6500. We assist clients in both Kentucky and Tennessee, including in Bowling Green, Nashville, Morgantown, Hopkinsville, Glasgow, Springfield, and Clarksville.

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