So you were rear ended in Connecticut in an automobile accident sustaining some serious personal injuries. It may have been on a local road, back road or a state highway. The defendant that hit you was operating his friends car. The owner of the car was only carrying a $20,000/$40,000 minimum Connecticut automobile liability policy. You. however, were smart enough to buy some significant uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your personal automobile policy. Maybe you were carrying $300,000/$300,000 of UM coverage.
Your doctor releases you from treatment and you have some significant medical bills, wage loss and a permanent partial impairment of your neck and back. The carrier for the owner of the vehicle that hit you wants to tender the full minimum policy limits. You are thinking great. I can collect those proceeds and then move on to my underinsured motorist claim under my personal automobile policy. A demand package is sent to your underinsured motorist carrier after you sign the release and tender it to the liability carrier for the owner of the vehicle that rear ended you.
What does your underinsured motorist carrier do? They do an ISO search and guess what they find out? The operator of the car that hit you owned his own automobile that carried an automobile liability policy. The policy provided another $20,000 of coverage. Unfortunately, you released both the owner and operator for the underlying $20,000 when you signed the release for the carrier that wrote the coverage for the owner of the motor vehicle that hit you.
Basically, you just boxed yourself out of underinsured motorist coverage on your own policy. Why? You made a fundamental mistake. You failed to exhaust all the available bodily injury policies that were available at the time of the accident to both the OWNER and OPERATOR defendant that hit you. This fundamental rule is codified in Connecticut General Statute 38a-336 (b). Not all states have this exhaustion rule but Connecticut does. Massachusettes, as an example, does not have an exhaustion rule.
The moral of the story in underinsured motorist law is that exhaustion means exhaustion. A well schooled plaintiff's personal injury attorney would not make the above fact patterned mistake. However, if you live out of state and are injured in Connecticut and have a choice of law provision in your automobile policy that chooses the forum where the accident happpened on procedural and substantive law topics, the attorney that you hired out of state to help you with your Connecticut accident may not be aware of the above noted rule. This may result in a complete disaster in the handling of your automobile negligence and underinsured motorist claim.
The Rotatori Law firm develops, negotiates, prosecutes and resolves many underinsured motorist and underlying automobile liability claims so that the above mentioned fact pattern does not happen to you.
We have two offices in New Haven County. Our Southbury office is conveniently located to Fairfield County and is only 20 miles from the New York State border. Feel free to contact Stamford injury attorney Peter Rotatori, III at (203) 626-1446 if you have been seriously injured in a Connecticut motor vehicle accident. You may also reach Mr. Rotatori on his Westchester, New York phone number at 914 413 4449.