In State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Jakubowicz, a car accident case from the Indiana Supreme Court, plaintiff and her two young sons were involved in a serious car accident that resulted in various personal injuries to the three occupants. The plaintiff filed a car accident lawsuit against the defendant on behalf of herself and her minor children.
The plaintiff’s insurance company also filed a lawsuit against the defendant to recover money it paid out as part of the case. The following year, plaintiff’s car accident lawyer told the plaintiff’s car insurance company that it planned on filing an underinsured motorist claim (UIM) on behalf of their client.
As our Boston car accident lawyers can explain, everyone who has car insurance in the Massachusetts also has what is known as underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) or uninsured motorist (UM) coverage unless they specifically declined that coverage after an explanation as to what that covers. Essentially, even though most people have never hear of UIM coverage, if they own a car in Massachusetts, they have UIM coverage.
The purpose of UIM coverage is to compensate a driver who is injured in a car accident when the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance coverage to fully compensate the injured victim for the total extent of his or her loss.
In this case, plaintiff did file for leave to amend her complaint, but it was not until three years had passed since the date of the accident. The court granted the plaintiff leave (permission) to amend her complaint and she made the amendment and added the insurance company as a defendant.
At this point, the insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment claiming that it the case against it should be dismissed, because it was not filing within the three-year statute of limitations. Plaintiff filed an opposition to this motion for summary judgment, and the court of appeals denied the motion.
Defendant then filed an interlocutory appeal asking the case be dismissed on grounds that the statute of limitations had run. The plaintiff than requested that the appeal be transferred to the state supreme court to avoid the defendant having a chance to appeal again if they were unsuccessful.
In this appeal, the court reviewed the denial of the motion for summary judgment de novo. A de novo review means that the appellate court will review the case as if it was not heard by the trial court and make its own findings of facts based upon the record instead of granting deference to the lower judge’s ruling. In most cases, the court of appeals will give full deference to the lower court’s ruling on matters of fact.
In this case, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling. There were a variety of reasons that the court could have made such a finding, including that the defendant was clearly on notice of the claim, since they were already a party to the lawsuit. However, it was the fact that the UIM policy itself required plaintiff to wait until the at-fault driver’s insurance policy was exhausted, which in this case had to take more than three years, since the case was still pending.
If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Jakubowicz, July 26, 2016, Supreme Court of Indiana
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Milford Teen Killed in Car Crash in Front of Own Home, July 18, 2016, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog