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Appeals panel reverses judgment favoring insurer

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A trial court erred in granting summary judgment to an insurance company that argued a driver injured in a car crash could not collect on an underinsured motorist policy because she received payments from other sources in excess of her policy limits.

The Indiana Court of Appeals Friday reversed Porter Superior Judge Roger V. Bradford’s grant of summary judgment in Christine Anderson v. Indiana Insurance Company, a member of Liberty Mutual Group, 64A03-1309-CT-359. Anderson was injured when her car was struck by a motorist during the course of her employment.

She received more than $81,000 in worker’s compensation benefits and $25,000 from the other motorist’s insurer, but she had a policy with Indiana Insurance with an underinsured motorist coverage limit of $100,000.

Because she had received more than her coverage limit, Indiana Insurance refused to pay, and Bradford found for the insurer when Anderson sued.

The appeals panel turned to a recent ruling, Justice v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co. (filed March 13, 2014), Ind. No. 49S02-1303-PL-221, to determine whether the policy was consistent with state statutes.

“Based upon Justice, we conclude that the trial court erred in finding that Anderson could not recover anything from Indiana Insurance. In other words, if (the underinsured motorist) had carried the required amount of liability insurance, depending on her total damages Anderson may have received $50,000 in addition to the $81,166.15, and the purpose of the  uninsured/underinsured motorist statute is to put her in that position,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the court.

“In light of that statutory purpose, we conclude that Anderson may be entitled to recover the remaining $25,000 from Indiana Insurance depending on her total damages. … For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Indiana Insurance and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
   
 

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  1. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

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