Hughes v. Farmers Auto Ins. Ass’n – Per-Accident Insurance Limits

In many Fort Lauderdale car accident cases, the amount of damages available will be determined by how much insurance coverage is involved. highway1

Auto insurance policy limits are generally expressed as:

  • Amount per person;
  • Amount per accident.

So let’s say there is a policy that allows $100,000 per person and up to $150,000 per accident. That would mean if only one person is hurt, he or she could collect up to $100,000. However, if two people equally suffer $100,000 in damages, the most either could collect would be $75,000 – because the policy limit is $150,000. 

That’s why whenever possible in cases where more than two vehicles are involved, our Fort Lauderdale accident attorneys will look to see whether it’s possible that there were technically two or more accidents – as opposed to a single accident.

This might sound a bit tricky, but it usually comes into play in multiple-vehicle accident claims, such as a pileup on the interstate. These “chain reaction” crashes may actually be deemed numerous crashes for insurance purposes. Often it will depend on how each vehicle came in contact with the other, and whether the very first incident played an integral role in the next and so on.

The recent case of Hughes v. Farmers Auto Ins. Ass’n is one such example of a case where it was argued that numerous accidents had occurred, rather than just one.

According to court records, this was an Iowa Supreme Court case in which the court was asked to determine whether a chain reaction crash that resulted in separate impacts that occurred seconds apart was in fact one “accident” or two.

A sport utility vehicle was traveling the wrong direction down a highway. The SUV collided with a semi-truck, totaling the SUV and killing the driver. The semi-truck driver suffered injuries.

Seconds later, a motorcyclist slammed into that totaled SUV, which was still in the middle of the road. The motorcyclist also suffered serious injuries, including amputation of his leg.

The truck driver and the motorcyclist filed a request for a declaratory judgment from the trial court, seeking to establish for purposes of claims against the SUV’s insurance that there had been two accidents – not one. Specifically, they both wanted to maximize the amount they could collect under the SUV’s per-accident limit on bodily injury liability insurance.

The district court granted a summary judgment in favor of the insurer on this matter. The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed.

The state high court noted the number of vehicles involved in the accident didn’t matter so much as the cause of each impact.

Although the court noted it’s not uncommon to refer to a multi-vehicle “accident” as a singular event when in fact there may have been multiple collisions, in this case, there was just one accident. The court took note of the fact that it would be an “extremely rare occurrence” that three or more vehicle would collide in the exact same place at almost the exact same time and not have it be a single crash.

When accidents are separated by time, space or cause, it is then that they may be deemed multiple accidents, instead of just one.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Hughes v. Farmers Auto Ins. Ass’n , April 1, 2016, Iowa Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Premises Liability for Dangerous Spring Break Gathering, April 2, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Accident Lawyer Blog