A man was involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffered severe bodily injuries.  The man filed a claim for personal injury damages with the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurer.  A settlement was reached for the no-fault statutory minimum coverage of $20,000.00.  MCL 500.3009(1).  Because the injured man’s damages exceeded the policy limits of the at-fault driver, a second claim was presented to the man’s own auto insurer for Underinsured Motorist Benefits (UIM).  The  UIM policy language required that its insured first obtain written consent from it to settle any liability claim with another, before making a UIM claim under the policy.  This was not done and therefore, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the denial of UIM benefits.

What this means for injured persons:

First, this case highlights the importance of making sure your auto policy includes Uninsured and/or Underinsured Motorist Benefits to protect against the risk that you may be hurt by a person who was not insured or only carried the minimum required by law.  MCL 500.3009(1).  Thus, if you do not have this coverage on your auto policy, consult your insurance agent immediately and obtain adequate coverage.

Secondly, this case highlights the importance of following the rules and steps listed in the policy in order to perfect and protect your potential UM/UIM claim, should one unfortunately arise.

Finally, while this case scenario involved a dispute on when the man knew or should have known he was supposed to get written consent from his own insurer, UM/UIM polices typically also include strict time limitations for when a claim can be made.  Therefore, careful attention to the details of the policy is critical.  It is best to consult your attorney for further guidance.

You can read this Opinion here.

Authored by L. Page Graves