Car Crash Crisis – When The Other Driver Fails to Cooperate

Adding “insult to injury,” some drivers who cause car wrecks leave the scene of the accident or “forget” to call their automobile insurer afterwards.  What happens when the person who causes a car crash does not report the accident to her insurance company ?

The Landau Law Shop was recently apprised of a motor vehicle accident in the District of Columbia where an out of state driver caused a crash while driving the injured plaintiff passenger’s family’s car.  The passenger was riding in his parent’s car, which has a D.C. Motor Vehicle Insurance Policy with State Farm.   A family friend driver of parent’s car caused the accident and the plaintiff passenger was injured.

State Farm Auto Insurance company does not initially contest coverage for driver.  However, the Defendant driver disappears after the crash.  Furthermore, the Defendant driver will not or is not cooperating with State Farm Insurance, which has the coverage for the family’s automobile.  The Defendant driver was a “permissive user” as he had the family’s permission to operate their car.  State Farm car insurance decides that it is going to pull coverage for “failure to cooperate with litigation.”  In other words, the family’s motor vehicle insurance company does not deny that the injured person’s family had paid for insurance coverage, BUT, because the driver is not cooperating with the carrier’s investigation of the claim, they will withhold paying any benefits. The basic car insurance contract requires the insurer to provide coverage for liability of their insured UP TO THE LIMITS OF COVERAGE purchased, AND to PROVIDE A DEFENSE (if the insured is named in a lawsuit).  This same automobile insurance contract provides that the insured must promptly report the car accident AND cooperate in the investigation of the crash and defense of a lawsuit.  If the insured fails to timely report an accident and/or fails to cooperate with the defense of the claim, then the car insurance company can decide not to provide coverage for the harms caused to innocent victims.  Sometimes the insurance company will “cover their bets” be defending under what is called a “reservation of rights,” where they may decide later to not pay any benefits under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy.

In this instance, the case becomes an “UNinsured Motorist” claim under the same policy if State Farm is successful in claiming a failure to cooperate under the language of the policy in question.   This is because the passenger is considered an “insured” under the policy issued to his parents, as he was a member of the immediate family, a member of the household AND had been declared as a resident driver when the policy was originally purchased from the State Farm car insurance agent.

If you or someone you know or care for has been injured as the result of a car, truck or motorcycle crash and the insurance company is claiming that there is no insurance coverage or that their are defending under a “reservation of rights,” e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555) at once.  Very often insurance coverage disputes can be resolved with the assistance of experienced legal counsel.

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