We currently represent a client who was on his way to work in the morning and who stopped behind a school bus picking up children. Our client was rear-ended by a teenager traveling at a high rate of speed. The teenager’s car, which was destroyed, completely collapsed the rear end of our client’s vehicle, and forced it into the back of the school bus. Our client sustained spinal disc herniations ultimately requiring back surgery.
The teenager was only insured for a total liability limit of $25,000.00.
His carrier turned that over, leaving us with an underinsured motorist claim to pursue with our client’s insurance company. Fortunately, our client had underinsured motorist coverage on the day of the collision in an amount that would fully compensate him for his injuries. As part of the process of pursuing his claim, we requested that the claim be arbitrated with his insurance company pursuant to the terms of the policy. If done correctly, arbitration goes faster, costs the parties less, and spares the clients the emotional roller coaster, loss of earnings, and hard work involved in a trial.
The insurance company refused our call for arbitration and wanted to force our client to go to trial or else accept their low offer. They based their refusal on a recent “endorsement” they said they had filed with the Department of Ohio Insurance and claim they sent to him. Ohio law requires all endorsements for this type of policy to be filed and accepted by the Ohio Department of Insurance prior to being used by the company and sent to their insured.
We didn’t take their word for it. Instead, we went down to the Ohio Department of Insurance archives and combed through hundreds of filings and thousands of pages on computer and microfiche. Nowhere did we find the “endorsement” they said they had filed with the Ohio Department of Insurance.
At that point their story changed. They admitted they had never filed this particular “endorsement”, but argued they had filed one an awful lot like it and so argued they had complied with the law.
The insurance company also admitted this other “endorsement” was not a part of our client’s insurance policy. Yes, we had to go to court on this even with their admissions.
In court, both sides briefed the issue. On their side was a bizarre hope that the court would cross its eyes, blur these two documents together, and come up with a validly filed endorsement binding on our clients. On our side was the law. We argued that the plain language of the statutes in effect in Ohio since the 1950s required them to file this endorsement and that if they were seeking to impose the other endorsement on our clients, they should have included it in the policy.
Fortunately, the court agreed with us and ordered the case to arbitration. Unfortunately, the insurance company appealed and the case is presently before the 9th District Court of Appeals. Stay tuned.