Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a Virginia car accident case requiring the court to determine if the defendant insurance company was required to cover the costs of the plaintiffs’ injuries through the plaintiffs’ underinsured motorist (UIM) policy. Finding that the vehicle in which the plaintiffs were driving did not meet the definition of a “covered auto” under the policy, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ theory of liability and dismissed the case.
A furniture company hired the plaintiffs as independent contractors to deliver a load of furniture. Normally, the furniture company used another company, but that company was unable to make the delivery, so the company asked the plaintiffs to make the delivery last-minute.
Due to the last-minute nature of the request, the plaintiffs did not have a vehicle available, so the furniture company allowed the plaintiffs to make the delivery using a truck that the company had rented. As the plaintiffs were making the delivery, another motorist struck the truck, killing one of the plaintiffs and seriously injuring the other.
The plaintiffs initially filed a lawsuit against the at-fault driver; however, due to the at-fault driver’s limited insurance, the plaintiffs then filed a claim against the furniture company’s insurance policy, under the UIM clause. The company’s insurance company covered only three vehicles, none of which was the truck involved in the accident.
The insurance company rejected the plaintiffs’ claim based on its reading of the relevant state law as well as the insurance policy itself. Specifically, the insurance company argued that the term “covered auto” as used in the UIM language in the policy did not include vehicles that were not named in the policy.
The Court’s Analysis
The court resolved the issue in favor of the insurance company. In so doing, the court considered the language of the insurance policy. Specifically, the court noted that liability coverage under the insurance policy extended to “any auto”; however, UIM coverage only extended to “any covered auto.”
Here, since the truck that was involved in the accident was not named on the policy, the court concluded that a plain reading of the statute would indicate that it did not qualify as a “covered auto.” That being the case, the UIM clause in the furniture company’s insurance policy did not cover the accident with the underinsured motorist.
Have You Been Dealing with a Difficult Insurance Company?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. car accident, and you have been dealing with a reluctant or difficult insurance company, contact the Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we represent accident victims and their families in all types of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. personal injury cases, and we take the time to explain the process to our clients along the way to ensure everyone is well-informed and involved in the process. Call us today at 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.
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