Uninsured Car Accident Issues in Ohio
Many of the lawsuits arising from car accidents in Ohio, and especially in Columbus and Central Ohio happen as a result of disputes over uninsured motorist coverage. What usually happens in these situations is that a motorist will get involved in a car accident with a driver without insurance and the only way to possibly pay for damages to the automobile and personal injuries resulting from the accident are to try to collect from the driver's own insurance company through uninsured coverage.
A fairly common insurance policy provision providing for uninsured motorist coverage will be similar to the following:
"We will pay [referring to the insurance company] all sums which an injured person is legally entitled to recover as damages from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of bodily injury sustained by the insured person. The bodily injury must be caused by accident and arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured motor vehicle."
A lot of the insurance claim denials for uninsured motorist coverage come about from the policy language "the bodily injury must be caused by and arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured motor vehicle." Ohio has a statute, Ohio Revised Code section 3937.18 that places certain requirements on uninsured insurance provisions. One requirement imposed by O.R.C. section 3927.18(B) is that:
(B) For purposes of any uninsured motorist coverage included in a policy of insurance, an "uninsured motorsist" is the owner or operator of a motor vehicle if any of the following conditions applies:
(1) There exists no bodily injury liability bond or insurance policy covering the owner's or operator's liability to the insured;
(2) The liability insurer denies coverage to the owner or operator, or is or becomes the subject of insolvency proceedings in any state.
(3) The identity of the owner or operator cannot be determined, but independent corroborative evidence exists to prove that the bodily injury, sickness, disease, or death of the insured was proximately caused by the negligence or intentional actions of the unidentified operator of the motor vehicle. For purposes of division (B)(3) of this section , the testimony of any insured seeking recovery from the insurer shall not constitute independent corroborative evidence, unless the testimony is supported by additional evidence.
Much of the litigation in Ohio arises out of the language in O.R.C. 3937.18(B)(3). Specifically, the requirement of independent corroborative evidence to prove the injury was caused by an uninsured driver. On one hand, this provision of the statute was put there to protect against insurance fraud. This way, someone who gets injured in some unrelated way cannot later claim that the injuries were caused in a car crash with a hit-and-run driver. On the other hand this provision works against people who actually were in a car accident with hit-and-run drivers who do not have independent corroborating evidence. The statute basically says that your word alone is not enough, you need some other form of evidence to verify the accident. Generally, this is why it is always a good idea to call a police officer to the scene of the accident with a hit-and-run or uninsured driver to get the additional evidence of a traffic crash report.
For accidents in Franklin County where the driver tries to get compensation for their injuries from their own uninsured motorist coverage, provided below is a brief overview of how the Tenth Appellate District (Franklin County) has decided on some of these fact scenarios.
Franklin County Tenth Appellate District Cases Deciding the Issue of Uninsured Motorist Coverage
In the case of Neal v. Farmers Ins. of Columbus, Inc., the insured's claim for insurance coverage was denied by the insurance company for the reason that the insured could not produce independent corroborating evidence that a hit-and-run driver hit them and caused their injuries. Neal v. Farmers Ins. of Columbus, Inc., 2004 Ohio 2574 (10th Dist. 2004). The Ohio Supreme Court has found that "corroborating evidence is evidence which supplements that which has already been given and which tends to strengthen or confirm it. It is additional evidence, of a different character, to the same point." See State v. Economo, 76 Ohio St.3d 56 (1996). In Neil, the injured driver introduced the deposition of an accident reconstruction expert that supported the injured insured's side of the story. The 10th Appellate District (Franklin County) Court found that that was enough corroborating evidence and sided with the injured party seeking insurance coverage.
In another auto accident case in Franklin County where the driver was seeking uninsured motorist coverage for injuries received from hitting a pedestrian walkin on I-270, the court ruled in favor of the insurance company for different reasons. Curry v. Estate of Akers, 47 N.E.3d 214 (10th Dist. 2016). In Curry, a dad was returning home from the mall with his two daughters and the dad got in an argument with one of his daughters and he pulled over the the side of the highway on I-270. Then the dad proceeded to walk across 4 lanes of highway traffic, cross over the median barrier, and walk across 4 more lanes of oncoming traffic while making a phone call before turning back and crossing across all 8 lanes of highway traffic again. By the time the dad had nearly gotten back to his car on the berm side lane near his car, he was hit by a car in that lane and killed. The driver of the car was also injured and the driver tried to collect for his injuries from his own insurance company because the dad was uninsured. The insurance company denied uninsured motorist coverage because they claimed that the accident was not "caused by an accident arising out of the operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle by an uninsured motorist." Curry v. Estate of Akers, 47 N.E.3d 214 (10th Dist. 2016). The insurance company claimed that since the dad was a pedestrian at the time of the accident, he was not considered an uninsured "motorist" and the driver was accordingly not covered under the insurance policy. The Tenth Appellate District court sided with the insurance company in finding that the dad's behavior walking through highway traffic was not considered to be the conduct of a motorist arising from the use of an uninsured vehicle.
Central Ohio Personal Injury Attorneys
The law firm of Harris & Engler is located in Columbus, Ohio, and its attorneys help clients with negligence and car accident personal injury cases all across Central Ohio. If you would like to speak with a personal injury attorney about your case then you can talk to one today by calling (614) 610-9988.