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State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Earl – Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

Auto insurance companies often will not pay an insured what is owed under uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provisions without a fight. motorcycle2

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is coverage paid for by the insured in the event he or she is injured due to the negligent actions of another driver who either has a low maximum payout or lacks insurance. Although this type of coverage isn’t mandatory in Florida, it usually comes standard in most auto insurance packages, and people have to sign a waiver declining it if they choose to do so. It’s a good idea to have it, however, because recent studies indicate 1 in 4 drivers in Florida don’t have any coverage at all.

In the case of State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Earl, a motorcyclist suffered severe injuries in a 2008 crash after a semi-truck merged into his lane, forcing him off the highway at 65 mph. The motorcyclist survived, but the trucker didn’t stop and was never found. (Other witnesses on the road confirmed his account of what happened.)

Plaintiff suffered numerous injuries, including a collapsed lung, fractured shoulder, fractured collarbone, ten broken ribs, internal injuries and numerous lacerations and abrasions. The doctor told the family the night of the accident that most people don’t survive that kind of accident.

Because the identity of the truck driver and the company for which he worked was not known, the at-fault driver is considered “uninsured” for insurance purposes.

Plaintiff’s injuries were not only extensive, they were in some cases permanent. His one shoulder drooped lower than the other side. He could no longer engage in the things he once loved, like baseball, working construction or playing with his grandchildren. Even sleeping became painful. He was on significant dose of heavy pain medications and rigorous physical therapy sessions.

He did eventually return to light duty at work, but his partner would later say the company suffered a great deal from his inability to perform certain functions as he previously had.

Plaintiff and his wife filed a claim for uninsured motorist coverage against plaintiff’s insurer. They sought the full $250,000 limit.

The insurance company conceded liability, but declined to pay that much.

The case went to trial solely on the issue of damages.

(As an aside, at the time of the accident, the couple was also covered by a $2 million umbrella insurance policy that would also have been collectible for uninsured motorist coverage purposes. However, a claim was not timely filed. This is exactly why individuals need to refrain from signing any initial deals made by insurers and also must make sure their motorcycle accident lawyer pursues all available remedies before proceeding in any given case. You may be owed much more than you realize.)

During trial, the court, over defense objection, allowed testimony indicating  about the policy limit for the base uninsured motorist policy. Jurors decided the case in plaintiff’s favor, awarding the full policy amount of $250,000 plus costs.

Insurance company appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court, arguing trial court abused its discretion in allowing into evidence the policy limit amount. They asserted jurors would not have been as likely to grant that amount had they not known how much the policy was worth. The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed, finding the court had committed no abuse of discretion.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Earl, June 9, 2015, Indiana Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

McCarthy v. Broward College – Slip-and-Fall Law Applied to Colleges, May 21, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Attorney Blog