ILNews

Justices rule on uninsured motorist statute

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In an issue of first impression, the Indiana Supreme Court had to decide whether an insurance company's uninsured motorist policy - which requires the bodily injury be sustained by an insured - violates the state's uninsured motorist statute and is unenforceable. The high court unanimously affirmed summary judgment Wednesday in favor of the insurance company, ruling Indiana Code clearly defines uninsured motorist coverage only for an insured's bodily injury.

In Maggie and Leonard Bush v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., No. 71S03-0810-CV-558, Maggie and Leonard Bush sued State Farm, their insurer, following the death of their adult son in a car accident in which he was a passenger. The Bushes claimed they sustained damages arising out of the conduct of an uninsured motorist and the insurer's failure to provide uninsured motorist benefits was a breach of the insurance contract. State Farm denied coverage because their son didn't live with his parents at the time of the accident and wasn't considered an "insured" under their policy.

The trial court granted summary judgment to State Farm because it ruled their son wasn't covered by the policy because he didn't meet the policy's definition of "relative" and wasn't an insured. The trial court didn't address the Bushes' argument that the company's policy violated the uninsured motorist statute, Indiana Code Section 27-7-5-2.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding the exclusion of coverage for the son violated Indiana statute.

The Supreme Court examined the uninsured motorist statute, which clearly defines uninsured motorist coverage only for the "insured's" bodily injury, and ruled State Farm's policy is consistent with the statute by requiring the insured sustain bodily injury to trigger uninsured motorist coverage, wrote Justice Theodore Boehm.

In addition, the high court's ruling is supported by caselaw, including Ivey v. Massachusetts Bay Insurance Co., 569 N.E.2d 692, 693 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), and Armstrong v. Federated Mutual Insurance Co., 785 N.E.2d 284, 293 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003).

Bodily injury to an insured doesn't cover emotional distress, unless it arises out of bodily touching, which isn't the case here, so the Bushes can't recover under that theory.

Even though this is an issue of first impression here, other states have interpreted their statutes to require injury be sustained by an insured.

"In short, the clear weight of authority from other jurisdictions supports our conclusion that Indiana's uninsured motorist statute requires coverage only for bodily injuries sustained by an insured," wrote Justice Boehm.

Justice Boehm also noted that the couple, in their individual capacities, aren't "legally entitled to recover" damages for their son's death; an Adult Wrongful Death Act claim would have to be filed by the estate.

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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