North Carolina Appellate Court Concludes that Victims of Fatal Motorcycle Crash are Entitled to Per-Accident UIM Coverage Instead of Lower Per-Person Coverage

Motorcycle accidents can lead to some of the most debilitating injuries. In the worst cases, the victim loses his or her life as a result of a driver’s negligence. As competent North Carolina motorcycle accident lawyers, we have assisted countless individuals with understanding their right to compensation after losing a loved one in an unnecessary and tragic crash. One of the most challenging aspects of resolving the situation is negotiating with insurance companies, who don’t always have your best interests in mind. While you and your family are coping with the sudden tragedy, we will work with insurance companies to fight for your rights and to protect your interests.

A recent North Carolina appellate opinion discussed the applicability of insurance in a crash that involved a motorcyclist and his passenger. The driver of a passenger vehicle containing three passengers lost control of her vehicle, which then collided with the victim’s motorcycle. The motorcycle rider and his passenger died as a result of the crash.

The defendant’s policy provided liability insurance with limits of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. The insurer distributed the coverage to the passengers in the passenger vehicle and to the estates of the motorcyclist and his passenger. The victims’ estates received $17,928 each. The victim also had an insurance policy that provided underinsured motorist coverage with a limit of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. The policy was distributed to the victims’ estates in the amount of $82,072 each. Ultimately, each estate received a total of $100,000 for both policies, which comprised the per-person limits of the underinsured motorist policy for the victim’s insurance.

The parties filed declaratory judgment actions in an attempt to resolve a dispute about whether the victim’s insurer was required to provide additional policy benefits. During a summary judgment hearing, the insurance company admitted that the decedents died as a result of the crash, but argued that the limit of liability for all damages should be capped at the per-person limit of $100,000, minus a credit of what the claimants obtained from the at-fault party’s insurance. Representatives of the decedents’ estates argued that the $300,00 per-accident limit from the victim’s policy applied. The court agreed with the decedents’ estates and rejected the insurance company’s request to limit damages at $100,000.

The insurance company appealed. The reviewing court rejected the insurer’s position that the language of the decedent’s policy limited the decedents’ estates to receiving $100,000 under the decedent’s policy. It cited the Motor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act of 1953, which declared that “the limit of underinsured motorist coverage applicable to any claim is determined to be the difference between the amount paid to the claimant under the exhausted liability policy or policies and the limit of underinsured motorist coverage applicable to the motor vehicle involved in the accident.”

The court also cited prior case law that discussed the issue of whether a per-person accident limit applies to underinsured motorist claims. The court in that case concluded that when the underlying liability policy is fully dispersed on a per-accident basis, then the per-accident underinsured motorist limit applies. Based on the statute and precedent, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in the decedents’ estates favor, finding that the per-accident limit of $300,000 in the decedent’s insurance policy applied, minus an offset for benefits paid through the at-fault driver’s policy. The court rejected the insurer’s assertion that this provided a windfall to the decedents’ estates, noting that neither estate received in excess of the policy limits.

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident or tragically lost a loved one as a result of another driver’s carelessness, the motor vehicle accident lawyers at Maurer Law are prepared to assist you with all aspects of the legal process. We will ensure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation you deserve while providing you with responsive and diligent legal counsel. To schedule your free consultation call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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