Recent changes and
developments in automobile insurance law and related issues can create problems
for the unwary who are dealing with the consequences of automobile accidents.
One critical point is to remember that, under Alabama court decisions, if an
injured person settles with the negligent person’s automobile liability
insurance company without taking certain affirmative steps and procedures with
respect to the underinsured motorist coverage, the injured person can
automatically lose his or her entitlement to additional coverage and benefits
that might have otherwise been available. Also, a recent case has held that,
when an automobile insurance company has one of the “named insured” persons on
the policy sign a rejection form for uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance,
that does not necessarily mean that this coverage is wiped out as to other
persons who might be entitled to recover under that policy. Therefore, if an
insurance company says there is no coverage, the documents ought to be examined
in light of this new case to see whether that is really consistent with current
law. Additionally, if a person is injured by more than one negligent party
(such as in a multi-vehicle accident, or a situation where both a negligent
driver and his employer are legally responsible for an accident), a settlement
with one of these responsible parties might accidentally wipe out the injured
person’s rights against the other responsible party, unless a certain type of
release, called a “pro tanto” release is used.
When health insurance
plans or agencies, such as Medicare, asserts subrogation or reimbursement
rights for medical expenses paid in an accident, there are steps that can be
taken that can reduce, under certain circumstances, the amount that has to be
repaid or reimbursed.
If you or a family member
are uncertain of your rights with regard to an automobile accident, it is
always wise to consult an attorney.
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.