Kentucky Court must decide which uninsured motorist coverage applies
by Mandy Hicks
Everyone would agree that being seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident and having no insurance for damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, is a bad thing. Uninsured motorist insurance can be very beneficial in such situations.
However, you may be surprised to learn is that simply having uninsured motorist coverage does not ensure a quick and easy payout of benefits to the injured party. To the contrary, as the circumstances presented in the recent case of Countryway Insurance Company v. United Financial Casualty Insurance Company illustrate, an injured person sometimes has to battle for the benefits to which he or she is entitled.
The Facts of the Case
A woman was riding as a passenger in a vehicle (described as a “semi-tractor” in court documents) owned and driven by her son. Another motorist negligently caused a collision, and the woman was significantly injured. The at-fault driver was uninsured at the time of the wreck. The woman’s son had an uninsured motorist (UM) insurance policy that covered anyone occupying his vehicle. The limits of that policy were $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident. The woman also had a UM policy that covered the accident. The limits of her policy were $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident.
Both insurance companies denied the woman’s claim for UM benefits. Although neither insurer denied that the woman was an insured under the respective policy or that she was injured in the crash, each insisted that the other UM insurance company’s liability came first. Because of this, the woman was forced to file a lawsuit against both insurance companies, seeking a declaration as to which carrier’s coverage applied. The Warren Circuit Court determined that the insurance companies’ competing excess provisions essentially canceled each other out, leaving them liable for the woman’s damages on a pro rata basis. Thus, the companies were directed to pay the woman’s damages in proportion to their respective policy limits.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals’ Decision
The intermediate court of appeals reversed, holding that the woman’s own UM carrier bore primary responsibility for her UM claim.
The Kentucky Supreme Court’s Ruling
On further appeal to the state’s highest court, the intermediate appellate court’s ruling was reversed, and the case was remanded for a judgment to the effect that the son’s UM carrier had primary coverage of the woman’s claim. In so holding, the court noted that, as a general rule, Kentucky case law places primary UM liability on the insurer of the owner of the vehicle involved (here, the woman’s son).
Talk to a Knowledgeable Kentucky Car Accident Lawyer
If you or a family member has been involved in a Kentucky car or truck accident and need help sorting out a UM claim or filing a liability claim against a negligent party, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley for a free consultation. You can reach us for an appointment at (270) 781-6500. Please bring all relevant documentation with you to the case evaluation, including any correspondence from your insurance company or the negligent party’s insurance company, your medical bills, and a copy of the accident report, if possible.
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