Sleiter v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co. – UIM Coverage in School Bus Accident Injury

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage is a necessity in Florida, where an estimated 1 in 4 drivers on the road does not have insurance, and even more lack an adequate amount of liability coverage to cover the full extent of damages. schoolbuswithchild

What some people also may not realize is that UM/UIM policies cover not only injuries to you or your loved ones while you’re driving in your own car. It should also provide coverage for any situation in which you or anyone else covered is involved in a motor vehicle accident – whether the injured person was walking or biking and struck by a vehicle or riding in some form of public transportation.

If the available insurance coverage through the at-fault driver or other liable entities does not cover the full extent of damages, your UIM policy should cover the difference, up to the policy limits.

However, that does not mean policy holders won’t have to fight for every inch of it. Our experienced Naples injury lawyers are here to help.

Recently in the case of Sleiter v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., parents of a child severely injured in a school bus accident had to battle to help him receive at least a bigger portion of his total damages he suffered when an errant driver slammed into the bus.

All total, 19 children suffered injury. The at-fault driver had a liability policy that allowed for just $60,000 in damages. The school district, meanwhile, had an insurance policy that offered up to $1 million in damages.

That sounds significant, but many of these kids were very seriously hurt. The trial court in Minnesota (where the crash took place) assigned a “special master” to assess the damages of each injured student. The total amount of damages was calculated to be more than $5.3 million – which was more than five times the amount of available insurance coverage. That meant not everyone was going to receive their total damages.

In an effort to divvy up what was available in the most fair way, the special master was tasked with determining a percentage of damages for each plaintiff.

For this particular plaintiff, his total damages were calculated at $140,000. But based on the percentages, he could only collect $1,600 from the at-fault driver’s insurer and $35,000 from the school’s insurance policy.

The good news for him was his parents had a $100,000 UIM policy. He couldn’t collect that entire amount, though, because it was understood to be offset by what he’d already received, so the most he expected to collect was about $65,000. That would put him at a total of $100,000 in recovery of damages – still $40,000 less than what he should have received, but better than what it would have been absent the UIM coverage.

However, the UIM insurer denied the claim, arguing that because the school district policy allowed for up to $1 million in coverage – far in excess of what plaintiff’s UIM policy offered – plaintiff was not entitled to collect anything further from his parents’ insurer.

Trial court actually agreed with insurer, and granted summary judgment. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed and ordered compensation to the plaintiff.

The term “available coverage” in this instance was to be interpreted as the amount which plaintiff actually had or could have received. Although the school district’s insurer did have up to $1 million in coverage, only a fraction of that was available to the plaintiff. Thus, he will receive the remainder from his parent’s insurer.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Sleiter v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., Aug. 5, 2015, Minnesota Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Ray v. Draeger – Insurance Industry Bias of Expert Witness Relevant, July 30, 2015, Collier County Bus Injury Lawyer Blog