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Woman failed to file lawsuit within 3-year period as required by contract

October 29, 2015

A woman was required under her insurance policy to file a lawsuit to recover underinsured motorist coverage within three years of the car accident, and because she did not, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment in her favor on the issue.

Carol Jakubowicz and her two sons were in a car accident on Aug. 2, 2007. In December 2009, Jakubowicz notified her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., she intended to pursue underinsured motorist claims in her lawsuit against the other driver. But Jakubowicz did not amend her complaint to include the underinsured motorist claim until July 27, 2011.

State Farm filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the amended complaint was filed after the expiration of a three-year contractual limitation period. The trial court denied the motion, leading to this interlocutory appeal.

The Court of Appeals acknowledged that Jakubowicz’s coverage contains similar language as that in Wert v. Meridian Security Ins. Co., 997 N.E.2d 1167 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), a case with a similar issue in which the judges found the policy insurance to be ambiguous.

“While Jakubowicz’ coverage contains similar language, none of the language in State Farm’s policy would support Jakubowicz’ argument that she was required to wait before filing her claim against the underinsured motorist coverage until the limits of (the other driver’s) insurance had been exhausted,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote.

“[U]nlike Wert, which included a categorical prohibition of legal action unless there was exhaustion of the limits of liability ‘by payments of judgments or settlements,’ State Farm’s policy encourages a negotiation between the insurance company and Jakubowicz. However, the absence of an agreement does not prevent Jakubowicz from filing a lawsuit within three years following the automobile collision. Therefore, we cannot say that State Farm’s policy was ambiguous.”

Because the insurance policy requires both the notification of the claim and the lawsuit to be filed within the three-year contractual limitation period, summary judgment should have been granted to State Farm, the COA held in remanding the matter to the trial court.

The case is State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Carol Jakubowicz, Individually, and as Parent and Legal Guardian Jacob Jakubowicz and Joseph Jakubowicz, Minors, 45A05-1502-CT-78.

 

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