This is not just another case extolling the virtues of underinsurance, also called UIM. It highlights the power of a hidden benefit of it called stacking. It also shows how our firm responded quickly to new information from our client to increase his financial compensation for a severe crash caused by a drunk driver.
Our client Charlie drove a car owned by his parents, returning home to Duncan from the opening night of a movie in Greenville. As he drove up I-85, a drunk driver drove the wrong way down an exit ramp at 60 mph, smashing into Charlie, who had nowhere to go.
The impact broke Charlie’s left foot in three places, both ankles, and his right heel. He underwent operations later that morning to fix all of this.
Available Insurance (Or So We Thought)
Initially, the amount of insurance was disheartening. The drunk driver had just $50,000 in liability insurance, which didn’t cover Charlie’s hospitalization. Charlie’s parents had UIM on the car he drove, so he at least had access to that to help out. But it was only $25,000.
It looked like all he’d get was $75,000. But then Charlie gave us a revelation that shed more hope on his case.
New Information- And More Insurance
As we lamented the lack of insurance coverage, Charlie revealed he actually lived with his parents at the time of the crash. This became an enormous game-changer from a legal standpoint, because it made him a “resident relative” under his parents’ insurance policy. That meant he could stack – use the UIM on his parents’ other vehicles.
That meant another $50,000 – if we could get it.
The Fly In The Ointment And How We Overcame It
This case definitely proved nothing was easy. The fly in the ointment was, Charlie owned a house of his own. In fact, the police crash report listed that address as his home. Naturally, we couldn’t expect even Charlie’s own insurance company to give up $50,000 without a big fight over this. So we prepared to win it the old fashioned way: we proved it with the truth!
First, we used the law. Legally, we basically had to prove he lived with his parents as a family member and not a tenant, and intended to live there a long time.
Second, we presented the facts to the insurance company showing Charlie satisfied this test, namely:
- Charlie lived with his wife at the home he owned, but they separated a year before the crash.
- Three months before the crash, Charlie moved in with his parents due to the loss of his ex-wife’s income to help pay for the house, plus his parents lived closer to his new job. Living with his parents helped him save expenses on heat, water, and cable T.V.
- We presented affidavits from his parents’ longtime neighbor and their close friend, attesting Charlie lived with his parents since before the crash.
- His parents weren’t landlords, and he wasn’t just visiting: He paid no rent, and had his own set of keys. He ate his meals there. He kept all toiletries there. He had a full dresser with all the clothes he needed. He took some mail at his parents’ home, including his W2 for income taxes. Charlie had no “move out” date in mind. We pointed out the law states an indicator of intent to stay is whether the parties shared insurance, which they did on all vehicles.
- As for his old house, Charlie hoped to keep it but eventually rent it out. The crash derailed any ambitions he had to find a renter soon. Charlie had neighbors watch his home. He continued to take some mail there to deter potential break-ins by keeping folks from thinking he’d left it. It also gave him a reason to check up on it.
A Small Skirmish, Then Success
Charlie’s insurance company wasn’t totally convinced yet, so they ordered him to testify under oath about all this, basically “just to make sure.” The insurance company lawyer concluded the examination by telling us he’d advise them to pay. And they did.
Thanks to Charlie being open with us and a little hard work by everybody, we tripled the amount of coverage he got under his parents’ policy from $25,000 to $75,000. We were thankful to make a difference for Charlie, and hope we can do the same for you.