Underinsured Motorist Benefits a Safety Net for Many Motorists

In the recent Alabama Civil Court of Appeals case of Perry v. USAA Casualty Insurance, the plaintiff has been fighting for – and likely will obtain – uninsured motorist benefits from two separate sources.
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She has been fighting to have a payout tendered ever since the crash in question occurred in October 2007 in Madison County. As our Montgomery car accident attorneys know well, insurance firms will aggressively battle to keep their costs as low as humanly possible, regardless of the legitimacy of the claim.

This often means customers will be given low-ball offers or in some cases, denied coverage altogether. This is unacceptable, and the only way to ensure a fair deal is to take the case to court. As this case reveals, there are situations where that battle can drag on for years. But if your attorney is experienced and the case is strong, it can mean justice at the end of the journey.

In the Perry case, the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a friend when that vehicle was struck by an at-fault driver. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries.

The at-fault driver’s insurance company offered to pay the plaintiff the full amount of the insured’s policy – $50,000 – on the condition that she release him from further liability. She could have rejected this offer, but in all likelihood, this was the most she would have been able to collect from his insurer anyway. She took the deal.

However, it was not enough to cover the cost of her injuries.

She then pursued two other avenues of compensation. The first was through the insurance company of her friend, the driver of the vehicle in which she’d been riding. That company had an underinsured motorist policy limit of $40,000. She agreed to accept this amount.

She also filed a claim with her own auto insurer, USAA, for underinsured motorist coverage. However, her carrier refused to settle. The plaintiff had a $50,000 underinsured motorist coverage policy limit. The plaintiff took the case to court.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding she was entitled to $275,000 in damages. That was in 2010.

The parties don’t dispute the insurer is entitled to a $50,000 credit from the at-fault driver’s insurer against that $275,000. What they are arguing is whether another $40,000 should also be subtracted, given the amount tendered from the other driver’s underinsured motorist benefits.

A trial court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment on the issue, finding it should be granted a credit of $40,000, but also ruled the plaintiff was entitled to immediate relief for a portion of her legal and litigation expenses, per the common-fund doctrine.

Both parties appealed, but the appellate court determined the summary judgment wasn’t sufficiently final on all matters to issue a ruling.

The bottom line is that ultimately, the plaintiff is going to be receive underinsured motorist benefits from her insurer, and it will almost certainly be in excess of the amount of her original policy limits – all because she would not accept “No” for an answer.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 1-866-942-9315 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:
Perry v. USAA Casualty Insurance, May 2, 2014, Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
More Blog Entries:
Roe v. St. Louis University, et al. – Establishing Liability By Deliberate Indifference, April 4, 2014, Montgomery Car Accident Lawyer Blog