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Supreme Court enforces Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist limitation on recovery

Mary Berkeypile was apparently badly hurt in a motor vehicle collision that involved a total of six vehicles.  Two of the vehicles were "hit and runs" that were never identified.  The other three vehicles' insurers utlimately paid a total of $332,500.00 to settle the claims Berkeypile made against them.   Berkeypile's attorneys then attempted to collect additional damages from Westfield Insurance Company.  Westfield had written Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) on Berkeypile's vehicle with policy limits of $300,000.00. The coverage was also written broadly to include Underinsured Motorists who did not have $300,000.00 of coverage.

The injured lady argued that her injuries ultimately amounted to more than the $332,000 she had received, and that the UM/UIM coverage should kick in to the exten of as much as $300,000.00 in coverage.  The insurer argued that by the terms of its policy, it paid nothing if the total damages exceeded the largest limits available (i.e. $300.000.00).  It also argued that since the Berkeypile attorneys had not secured Westfield's consent to the settlement with the other drivers, she had waived her UM/UIM coverage.

The Court of Appeals had refused to apply either exclusionary argument urged by Westfield and back in August of 2008, it allowed the case to go forward for a jury determination of Berkeypile's damages.  This week the Supreme Court overturned that decision and limited the victim's potential recovery in the manner sought by Westfield.  Since Berkeypile had already collected more money than the limit of coverage written in to the policy, her claim was dismissed, regardless of her actual damages. 

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