The Complexity of Underinsured Motorist Claims
In 2009, while going to visit a friend, a vehicle turned directly in front of our client J.O. J.O. was transported by ambulance to Great River Medical Center where she underwent surgery on both her foot and wrist. The insurance company for the other party informed J.O. that they felt she was traveling too fast on the highway and that they did not believe that their insured was entirely responsible for the accident.
The Pothitakis Law Firm immediately conducted an investigation of the accident scene and obtained the accident investigation records from the officers who investigated the accident. Based upon this investigation, the insurance company for the other party relented and agreed that their insured was entirely responsible for the incident.
The other difficulty with the claim was the fact that there was concern about whether there was sufficient insurance to cover the damages. The negligent party only had available a $100,000 liability policy. The Pothitakis Law Firm obtained the payment of the $100,000 policy limits. Pothitakis Law Firm and J.O. did not believe this amount was sufficient to cover her damages. The physician for J.O. indicated that she may need future surgery as a result of her injuries and for this reason, Pothitakis Law Firm argued that the damages were extensive and well beyond $100,000. At this point, the only option was to look to underinsured motorist coverage to provide additional funds for the damages sustained by J.O.
In Iowa, individuals who own motor vehicles are required to maintain underinsured motorist coverage. In this case, the complexity of the underinsured motorist claim was the fact that there were three different underinsured motorist policies that could apply and provide coverage to J.O. First of all, she was driving a vehicle owned by a relative. The owner of this vehicle had a $50,000 underinsured motorist policy. J.O. herself had a vehicle that had underinsured motorist coverage. Even though she was not in that vehicle at the time of the collision, the policy allowed her to recover underinsured motorist benefits even when driving a different vehicle. This policy was $100,000.
Finally, at the time of the accident J.O. was living with a relative. This relative had a $250,000 underinsured motorist policy.
Pothitakis Law Firm initially pursued the $50,000 underinsured motorist policy maintained by the owner of the vehicle being driven by J.O. This insurance company ultimately offered and paid the policy limits. Pothitakis Law Firm then set its sights on pursuing the other two underinsured motorist policy limits. The insurance companies for these other policies were unwilling to resolve the claim so the Pothitakis Law Firm filed suit in the Iowa District Court seeking these underinsured motorist benefits.
After exchanging information in discovery, the Defendants requested the case be set for mediation. The parties met with a mediator and ultimately the claim was resolved.
This case illustrates the necessity to evaluate any and all sources of insurance coverage and funds that may provide coverage for an injured party’s damages. The complexity and inter-relation of insurance policies of the negligent party and for the injured party makes it important to thoroughly evaluate these possible sources of coverage.