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Appeals Court reverses grant of Underinsured Motorist Benefits to injured woman

Linda Swistak was hurt when another car crossed the centerline and struck her car.  She carried No Fault insurance with the Home-Owners Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Auto-Owners.  She had paid for Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) in case she suffered injuries and damages that exceeded an at-fault driver's liability coverage.  The coverage required that she bring an action against Auto-Owners within "any applicable statute of limitations applying to bodily injury claims in the state in which the accident occurred." (We added the emphasis.)

Apparently it took some measure of time to determine that Swistak's injuries exceeded the at-fault policy limits, and her attorneys did not file a lawsuit against Home-Owners in the "normal" motor vehicle injury three-year statute of limitations, in an attempt to protect her rights.  They filed the action approximately 37 months after Swistak suffered injury.  Who knows, maybe she didn't consult them within the "normal" time period.

In any event, Home-0wners immediately sought summary disposition, based on Swistak not having filed within the three-year statute of limitations normally applicable to auto injuries in fault cases.  The trial judge agreed with Swistak's attorneys, ruling that the policy language was ambiguous, and giving the policy its plain meaning, he did not dismiss the case because it was, in fact filed within one of the State of Michigan's bodily injury statutes of limitations. The Court of Appeals reversed, interpreting the policy to require application of the "applicable" [three-year] statute of limitations.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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