Louisiana Court of Appeal Upholds Award of Insurance Policy Benefits for Bystander in Pedestrian Car Accident Case

If you have been injured in a car accident, you probably have many questions regarding whether you are entitled to receive policy benefits from any insurance companies that insure the parties to the crash. Insurance policies are complex and difficult to understand. Many personal injury cases involve lengthy disputes about how coverage should be applied and whether or not injured parties are entitled to coverage. As seasoned Louisiana car accident lawyers, we know how to navigate complex insurance issues on behalf of our clients. A recent appellate opinion provides an example of how insurance disputes can arise in car accident cases.

On the day of the accident, the plaintiff and her daughter were walking home from church along a road that did not have a sidewalk or a paved shoulder. The plaintiff and her daughter were instead traversing an area that was grass and gravel. The shoulder was sloped downward from the road toward a culvert. The defendant was driving along this same road at the time of the crash when the front right side of his vehicle struck the plaintiff and threw her into the ditch. The plaintiff was unresponsive. Emergency personnel arrived at the scene, and the plaintiff regained consciousness. Then, she was sent to the hospital, where she stayed for at least one night.

The plaintiff and her husband filed a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of themselves and their daughter against the defendant, the owner of the vehicle that he was driving, and a number of insurance companies that provided various policies to each party. This included the two of the plaintiffs’ own insurers that provided them with an underinsured motorist or UM policy.

The plaintiffs later settled their claim against the driver, the owner of the vehicle, and the insurer of the defendant’s vehicle. The policy contained a “per person” clause providing that $15,000 is the most it will pay to any party who suffered a bodily injury from a single accident.

The plaintiffs reserved their bystander daughter’s claim against these defendants, however. A bystander claim is sometimes known as a Lejeune claim. In response to the daughter’s claim, the insurer argued that its $15,000 settlement check to the plaintiffs exhausted the “per person” limit of the plaintiff’s policy and that the daughter’s bystander claim did not trigger the additional “per person” coverage because she was not harmed physically as a result of the collision. The plaintiffs argued that there were material facts in dispute regarding whether the daughter was struck in the accident and that the daughter’s claim was not derivative of another claim and thereby warranted payment under the policy.

After trial, the court concluded that the defendant was entirely at fault for the accident. The judge also concluded that the daughter suffered a compensable injury and awarded her damages in the amount of $12,000, pursuant to the “per person” coverage of the insurance policy. The insurer filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that the award of damages to the daughter was a reversible error. The insurer alleged that the daughter’s claim was a derivative claim of the mother’s physical injury claim and that additional payment pursuant to the “per person” term of the policy was not justified. The court denied the insurer’s motion for a new trial, and the insurer appealed.

On review, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling, finding that the daughter’s bystander claim was not derivative of the mother’s bodily injury claim and that the policy was correctly interpreted to provide a separate “per person” coverage for the daughter’s claim.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a Louisiana car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At Dué Guidry Piedrahita Andrews Courrege L.C., our team of seasoned trial lawyers will fight for your right to compensation and ensure that insurance companies play by the rules. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at (225) 929-7481 or contact us online.

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