The Plaintiff Is Injured in an Auto Accident With an Underinsured Motorist
The plaintiffs in the case of State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company v. Jakubowicz are a woman and her two sons, who were injured in a car accident with another driver in August 2007. According to the facts and procedural case history discussed in the appellate opinion, the woman filed a personal injury case against the other driver less than two years after the accident, seeking compensation for her family’s injuries.
As the claim against the other driver proceeded, the plaintiff learned that the other driver’s insurance coverage would be insufficient to fully compensate her for the expenses and losses suffered in the accident. The plaintiff eventually added a claim against her own insurance company, seeking compensation for damages that would not otherwise be covered through her underinsured motorist coverage, although this claim was not filed until after the three-year limitations period had expired.
The Defendant’s Attempt to Enforce the Limitations Period Fails
In response to the plaintiff’s underinsured motorist claim, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s insurance policy required any claims to be filed within three years of an accident and that the plaintiff’s complaint could not proceed. The district court acknowledged that the insurance policy was subject to a three-year limitations period, but it found other policy language concerning underinsured motorist claims that was ambiguous regarding the limitation. Specifically, the policy noted that a lawsuit seeking underinsured motorist compensation could not be filed until after the insured had exhausted the coverage limits from the other insurance company.
The court found that the language demanding that other coverage be exhausted before filing a lawsuit conflicted with the language requiring an underinsured motorist claim to be filed within three years after an accident, since in some cases a plaintiff may not know that the other coverage is exhausted until over three years after an accident. The court constructed the ambiguous language of the policy in favor of the plaintiff, and it sided with her by allowing the claim to proceed.
Statutory Limitations Versus Policy-Specific Limitations Periods
North Carolina accident victims may be subject to more than one time limitation requirement to make a claim or file a lawsuit against an insurance company that may be liable for damages suffered in an accident. The laws of each state contain a statute of limitations that sets out a deadline from the date of an accident, after which a plaintiff will lose their legal right to relief. North Carolina personal injury lawsuits are subject to the three-year limitation period.
In addition to the statute of limitations under state law, plaintiffs may be subject to limitations contained in an insurance policy itself, which may be longer or shorter than the government’s statute of limitations. For example, the plaintiff in the Jakubowicz case was required to file her claim within three years of the accident date, which may not have been consistent with the statute of limitations in that state. Courts will generally enforce both statutes of limitations and limitations contained in insurance policies, but plaintiffs who file a case after either period has expired may remain entitled to relief.
Contacting a Greensboro Car Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident, it is important to consult with knowledgeable legal counsel as soon as possible after the accident occurs. If you are afraid that a limitations period may be approaching or has expired, call us.
Contact our Greensboro Personal Injury Lawyers today if you or someone you know has lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence.