Louisiana Court of Appeal Affirms Denial of UM Penalties to Injured Insured in Uninsured Motorist Coverage Dispute

man exiting vehicleInsurance policies can be extremely complicated. If you were involved in a car accident, it is important that you understand your rights and whether you are being treated fairly by your insurer and the other parties’ insurers. As seasoned Louisiana car accident lawyers, we have assisted many individuals with ensuring they receive the full amount of compensation they deserve.

In a recent appellate decision, the court considered whether a trial court appropriately denied an injured plaintiff’s claim for penalties and attorneys’ fees for her uninsured motorist (UM) policy insurer’s failure to provide an unconditional tender under the policy provisions of her insurance policy.   The plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of a rear-end collision while she was stopped at a red light. She filed a lawsuit, seeking damages against the drivers involved and the insurance companies that covered each of them. She also filed a lawsuit against her uninsured motorist (UM) policy provider, stating that her damages would exceed the coverage of the drivers who caused the accident.

As the matter proceeded, it was determined that the second vehicle behind the plaintiff was entirely at fault for the accident. She settled her lawsuit against the driver of this vehicle and his insurer for $50,000, which constituted the limits of his policy. She then dismissed her claims against them. She next dismissed her claims against the second driver, who was deemed not at fault for the accident.

The plaintiff next proceeded with her claims against her UM insurer and submitted copies of demand letters that she had provided, along with documentation showing her injuries and medical expenses. Evidence indicated that the insurer did not respond to the demands for policy coverage. The plaintiff then amended her claim to add a cause of action for statutory attorneys’ fees and penalties for the UM insurer’s failure to provide an unconditional tender despite proof that her injuries were in excess of the underlying policy limit involved.

The court granted a motion by the insurer, stating that the plaintiff waived her right to a jury trial because she did not post a jury bond. During a bench trial, the court determined that the plaintiff’s injuries were an aggravation of injuries she suffered in a prior car crash in 2008 and that the plaintiff was entitled to $3,314.37 in medical costs and $8,000 in general damages. The plaintiff requested a new trial, and the court denied the motion. Other motions followed, and eventually the plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court upheld the lower court’s judgment and rulings, finding that the insurer had no duty to provide coverage to the plaintiff until she was able to prove that her damages exceeded $50,000. The court also found that there was sufficient evidence in the record supporting the lower court’s finding that the plaintiff’s injuries constituted an aggravation of prior injuries.

If you were harmed in a car accident, it is critical that you speak to a Louisiana personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to protect your right to compensation. At Dué Guidry Piedrahita Andrews L.C., our seasoned team of car crash lawyers is standing by to help you ensure that you are treated fairly by everyone involved in the process. To set up your free consultation, call us at 1-800-929-7481 or contact us online to get started.

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