Although Connecticut law requires drivers to carry some minimum amount of car insurance, oftentimes those policies do not pay for the full cost of an individual’s damages. Connecticut law only requires a motorist to carry $20,000 of coverage per injured person and $40,000 of per accident. In cases where the responsible driver’s insurance is not enough, drivers injured in a traffic accident have another option: they can file a claim against their own insurance carrier provider based on their underinsured motorist coverage, however, there are special doctrines surrounding those claims in Connecticut. The Connecticut Supreme Court recently clarified one of those doctrines in a case relating to a fatal traffic accident, Guarino v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance.
How Underinsured Motorist Claims Work
In general, damages in traffic accident lawsuits are paid for by the insurance carrier of the person at fault. When those payments are not enough to cover the damages, injured victims can make an insurance claim with their own carrier, up to the limits of their own policy, but only after they have received the full amount payable under the at fault party’s insurance.
However under Connecticut law, in some cases, the injured party may not receive the full amount of their policy. Instead, they can only receive the difference between what the defendant paid and the amount necessary to cover their damages.
For example, suppose a person with a $100,000 underinsured motorist policy gets into an accident with someone who only has $60,000 of insurance coverage. And suppose the accident results in the victim suffering medical costs and other damages of $160,000. If the defendant’s insurance carrier pays the full $60,000 allowed by the coverage, then the victim can make a claim against their own insurance for the remaining medical expenses and damages incurred. However, the plaintiff will not be able to obtain the full $100,000 allowed by the policy because they already received $60,000 from the defendant’s Insurance carrier . Consequently, the most that they can receive from their own insurance is $40,000 (which is their $100,000 limit minus the $60,000 already paid by the defendant).
The Guarino Case
The Guarino case deals with defining what actually counts as receiving payment from the defendant. Guarino had an underinsured motorist policy with a $100,000 limit, and had received two settlement payments from two defendants totaling $245,000. Guarino’s estate argued that the $245,000 in payments should not offset the $100,000 under his policy because the payments were made as settlements, rather than after a court found the other drivers at fault. The Connecticut Supreme Court disagreed.
The Court held that a payment made by a defendant in order to have a plaintiff release a legal claim should offset the plaintiff’s underinsured motorist policy limits. The Court also upheld a previous doctrine that stated that the amount of reduction in the plaintiff’s policy limit was the sum of all payments made by all defendants.
Underinsured motorist claims are just one of many options that people involved in traffic accidents have for pursuing full, fair compensation for their injuries. If you have recently been hurt in a car accident, contact a skilled Hartford, CT traffic accident lawyer at Woolf Law Firm, LLC. Call [[phone1]] to schedule a consultation.