Countryway Ins. Co. v. United Financial Casualty Ins. Co. – Insurers Wrangle Over Who Should Pay UM Coverage

Uninsured motorist coverage is essential for all drivers in Florida, though it is not required by law. With 1 in 4 drivers in the Sunshine State not insured, uninsured motorist coverage provides a safety net if you are struck by one of those drivers. trucksontheroad1

In some situations, drivers may have more than one uninsured motorist policy that applies in an accident. Although some may see this as a good problem to have, warring insurance companies – each trying to get the other to pay – can delay payment to the injured car accident victim. An experienced injury lawyer can help to ensure your rights and best interests are protected.

In the case of Countryway Ins. Co. v. United Financial Casualty Ins. Co., recently before the Kentucky Supreme Court, two auto insurance companies were fighting each other over which should cover the damages incurred by an insured who was riding in the passenger seat of her son’s semi-tractor trailer when it was struck by the uninsured driver of a passenger vehicle. 

The crash happened in September 2007 in Bowling Green. There was no question by any involved that the uninsured driver was to blame for the crash, or that insured plaintiff suffered significant injuries. The issue was which insurer should cover her claim for uninsured motorist benefits – her personal auto insurer, the insurer who provided coverage of the semi-truck or both?

The tractor-trailer was insured by a company called United, which provided an uninsured motorist policy of up to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. As a person occupying the vehicle, plaintiff was insured under that portion of the policy.

Meanwhile, she had her own UM policy for her personal vehicle that was for $100,000 per person or up to $300,000 per accident. As a family member and spouse of the named insured (her husband), she was insured under that policy (provided by Countryway) as well.

Neither insurer denied plaintiff was insured under its respective policy, but both denied her coverage for UM benefits on the ground the other company’s liability came first – and neither would pay until the other did.

That gave plaintiff no choice but to file a lawsuit against both of them, seeking a declaration as to which company should have to pay.

While this dispute was pending, United waived its position in the dispute with Countryway and settled with personal injury plaintiff for $22,500.

The case between the two insurers continued, with United arguing that because the excess clauses in both policies effectively canceled each other out, they should each pay pro rata, or in equal proportion to the amount of coverage they supplied. Countryway, meanwhile, argued against that result on the grounds that United, as the insurer of the owner of the vehicle involved in the crash, should be the first to pay.

Trial court sided with United, but the appeals court reversed, finding (much to Countryway’s dismay) that it was Countryway that should be liable for the full amount.

The Kentucky Supreme Court, though, reversed and remanded, finding the appellate court applied the incorrect analysis of controlling case law in this matter. Here, it was United, as the vehicle insurer, that held the first responsibility of coverage. Once that coverage was exhausted, then plaintiff could seek relief from Countrywide.

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

Additional Resources:

Countryway Ins. Co. v. United Financial Casualty Ins. Co., Aug. 25, 2016, Kentucky Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Morton v. Schlotzhauer – Personal Injury Lawsuit Affected by Personal Bankruptcy, Aug. 29, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog