Do You Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
If you are seriously injured in an auto accident, you have the right to sue the negligent driver for damages. But what if the driver has no insurance, or their coverage is not sufficient to compensate you for your injuries? In such situations, you may be able to turn to your own auto insurance policy for benefits.
By law, Iowa insurers must offer their policyholders uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. The policyholder is free to reject such coverage. But doing so can leave you unprotected in the event of an accident.
Iowa Court Finds Local Accident Not Covered Under Illinois UM Law
A recent decision from the Iowa Court of Appeals, Dunigan v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, offers a cautionary tale. This case involves a February 2015 accident in Des Moines. The plaintiff was driving his vehicle when it collided with another car whose driver failed to yield at an intersection.
The negligent driver did have insurance. The plaintiff agreed to accept the limits of that policy to settle his personal injury claim. But since the plaintiff’s damages exceeded these limits, he then sought UM benefits from his own insurance company, Liberty Mutual.
Liberty Mutual, however, claimed the plaintiff rejected UM coverage when he initially applied for his auto insurance policy back in 1997. More to the point, the plaintiff applied for insurance when he lived in Illinois, and under Illinois law he elected to only carry the minimum amount of coverage required by that state, which did not include UM benefits.
In response, the plaintiff argued that Iowa law should apply to his insurance policy. And in this state, a policyholder must expressly reject UM coverage in writing. Since the plaintiff never filed such a rejection, he argued UM coverage “must be read into his policy” due to Liberty Mutual’s non-compliance with Iowa law.
The Court of Appeals, upholding a trial court’s earlier decision, sided with Liberty Mutual. The appeals court said the insurance policy here was clearly governed by Illinois law. The policy was “contracted for and made in Illinois.” Indeed, at the time of the accident the plaintiff still had an Illinois driver’s license, and the vehicle involved in the accident was registered in that state.
Now like Iowa, Illinois also requires insurance companies to offer UM coverage as part of their standard policy. Under Illinois law applicable at the time the plaintiff purchased his policy, the insurer had to include a “space for indicating the rejection” of UM coverage on its application forms. Liberty Mutual had such a space, and the plaintiff “signed on the signature line” directly below the statement rejecting UM coverage. He was therefore not covered under Illinois law for his 2015 Iowa accident.
Get Advice from an Iowa Personal Injury Lawyer Today
It is always a good idea to periodically review your auto insurance coverage. And if you recently moved to Iowa from another state, you should purchase a new policy clearly governed by this state’s laws. If you wait until there is an accident, like the plaintiff in the case above, you might be surprised to learn that you do not have the amount of coverage you think.
Contact the Noyes Law Office today if you need legal advice or assistance from a qualified Southeast Iowa auto accident attorney.