In many cases of serious injury or death, the negligent person who caused the harm does not have enough insurance or assets to pay for the damages. In this situation, the personal injury lawyer must be skilled in insurance law to analyze whether there are other insurance policies that may apply to the case. David Miraldi of Miraldi & Barrett recently finalized the settlement in a death case where he was able to obtain insurance from an unlikely, but responsible source, and secure compensation for the victims family.
The case involved a truck driver who ran out of gas on an interstate and pulled his rig off of the highway. A service van came and delivered fuel for him. While the truck driver was waiting outside of the service van for the work invoice, an intoxicated driver left the traveled portion of the highway, struck, and killed the truck driver who was standing on the berm. The drunk driver had only $12,500 of liability insurance, the truck driver had no personal underinsured motorist coverage, and the trucking company for whom the truck driver worked had $40,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. The drunk driver was sentenced to prison and had no assets.
Miraldi & Barretts team began by taking a statement from the man who had provided roadside service to the truck driver. He stated that the truck driver had been giving him information necessary to complete the work invoice and that the truck driver had been leaning on the service van just prior to the impact. Because of his experience in insurance law, Miraldi was aware of cases that found that a person could be "occupying" a vehicle if that person was involved in a task related to that vehicle -- usually changing a tire or making a repair. If a person is occupying the vehicle, then that person usually has underinsured motorist coverage under that vehicles policy. Was the truck drivers assistance in providing information for the invoice a task related to that vehicle? Because the insurance policy covering the service van provided $1,000,000 of coverage, Miraldi believed that it was worth pursuing this theory.
Miraldi filed a lawsuit in Toledo, Ohio claiming that the insurance policy covering the service van also applied to the victim. The trial court agreed with him and later the Sixth District Court of Appeals also agreed in a very close decision (2-1.) The insurance company appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court who, upon Miraldis urging, refused to accept the case. In the end, the insurance company eventually settled with the truck drivers family.