North Carolina Appellate Court Discusses Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Fatal Car Crash

When you purchase underinsured motorist coverage, most drivers assume that it will help them cover any gaps in the event that they are injured in an accident involving a driver who doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the damages. Insurance claims can be very complicated, however, and insurance companies do not always honor the terms of the policies provided. In other cases, an insurance company may delay providing payment or point to other provisions of the policy in an attempt to avoid having to pay benefits under the policy. At Maurer Law, our compassionate and knowledgeable team of Charlotte car accident lawyers are available to help you assert your right to insurance benefits after an accident.

The North Carolina appellate court issued an opinion in a case recently where an insurer and insured disputed whether or not the insurer was entitled to underinsured motorist benefits. The insured was a passenger in her sister’s vehicle when they were involved in an accident. The sister lost control of the vehicle, ran over a median, and collided with an 18-wheeler in the opposite lane of traffic. The sister tragically died in the crash and the insured suffered devastating injuries.

At the time of the crash, the decedent and the insured carried policies. The decedent’s policy was issued in Tennessee while the insured’s policy was issued in North Carolina. Both policies provided coverage for personal injuries up to $100,000 per occurrence and for injuries involving underinsured or uninsured motorists up to $100,000 per occurrence.

The insurer filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment stating that it was not required to pay underinsured motorist coverage according to the policy because the sister’s coverage amount provided the same amount of coverage as the insured’s policy. In essence, the insurer argued that underinsurance was not an issue in the case. The trial court issued a declaratory judgment in favor of the insurance company and the insured appealed.

On review, the appellate court considered whether the vehicle in which the insured was riding at the time of the accident qualified as an underinsured motor vehicle as defined under North Carolina’s auto insurance laws. Like many states, North Carolina has a set of laws that govern auto insurance policies and provide specific rules for how they must be applied. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the two insurance policies involved in the accident were equal, the vehicle was not underinsured at the time of the accident. Had the decedent’s policy provided coverage limits that were less than what the insured possessed, then the outcome may have been different.

If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to insurance coverage benefits under your policy and any other policy involved in the accident. Insurance policies can be incredibly overwhelming and difficult to understand especially if the insurance company is refusing to provide you with benefits that you believe you deserve. Our seasoned team of Charlotte car accident lawyers offers a free consultation to discuss your situation and whether you are being treated fairly. To set up your appointment, call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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