Customers can always count on insurance companies to play hardball, and the case of Connors v. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co. was no different.
Two pedestrians, husband and wife, were struck by a motor vehicle while on a walk. The driver was backing out of a driveway while the husband and wife strolled past. The wife hit the vehicle with her hand and screamed. The driver initially stopped, and later conceded he saw the wife laying on the ground screaming. Still, he continued moving the vehicle back again, this time running over the husband.
Both pedestrians sustained serious injuries. The husband suffered a traumatic brain injury, as well as injury to his neck, body and limbs. He was taken to a nearby hospital and later to a rehabilitation center, where he died two years later. His wife sustained injuries to her neck, back, leg and arm – not to mention the deep emotional scars she suffered as a result of watching her husband being run-over.
At the time of the crash, the pedestrians together owned a vehicle insured by GECIO, which allowed for up to $300,000 per person and $300,000 per accident in uninsured/underinsured motor vehicle coverage.
Meanwhile, the other driver maintained an auto insurance policy through Allstate, which limited payout for injuries to $100,000 per person or up to $300,000 per accident.
Although the record doesn’t reveal the total amount of monetary damages sustained by the victims, we know it was more than the total available and collectable insurance. Allstate settled the claim by paying $100,000 to the husband (prior to his death) and $100,000 to the wife, thus fulfilling its $100,000-per-person coverage.
Each of the plaintiffs then submitted a claim for UIM coverage from their own auto insurer, GECIO. They sought $300,000 in total from that policy, the maximum amount allowable under the policy.
However, as our Montgomery pedestrian accident lawyers understand it, this is where the insurer began to be difficult. GEICO claimed it need only pay $100,000 total – which it claimed was the difference between the total allowable under the UIM policy ($300,000) and the total thus far paid by the other insurance company ($200,000). Plaintiffs, meanwhile, contended they were entitled to the total $300,000 in coverage.
Insurer paid the $100,000, with the understanding claimants would proceed with the dispute of $200,000 in court. Trial judge and later appellate court judge sided with the insurance company, finding the insurer’s interpretation of the unambiguous policy language meant the insurer was only required to pay $100,000 total to its insureds.
We know this was not enough to cover plaintiffs’ expenses, particularly following decedent’s wrongful death. Cases like this show why it’s imperative not to merely accept the first offer made by insurance companies, even if it seems reasonable. Chances are, you may be entitled to much more. There may even be an opportunity for a third-party lawsuit, and it’s important to properly preserve those claims so they won’t be barred by the statute of limitations.
Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.
Connors v. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co., April 17, 2015, Maryland Court of Appeals
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