The most recent "serious impairment" decision
Farm Bureau, an insurer that has been particularly aggressive in resorting to the Courts to deny coverage purchased by its policyholders, lost its most recent appeal. Its insured, Awada, had bought uninsured motorist coverage from State Farm, and attempted to avail himself of the coverage after being injured in a car wreck. Under the terms of the policy, he had to prove a Kreiner "serious impairment" to force Farm Bureau to compensate him for the damages caused by the at-fault driver. Farm Bureau had convinced the trial court that Awada's claim should be dismissed summarily as not "serious".
The plaintiff was 67 years old. He suffered a fracture of his left kneecap that was "comminuted", meaning that the bone fractured into many pieces. The orthopaedic surgeon described what he found when he opened the knee as a "morselized" bone with "very little structural integrity between the bony pieces". The surgeon wired together what he could and the plaintiff attended physical therapy for several months. He could not take care of himself or his household for eight weeks. After that time, he suffered "unrelenting pain" that interfered with his daily prayers and kept him from sitting, standing or walking for extended periods. The Court held that he had created a question of fact regarding whether his was a temporary "serious impairment" and also noted that a jury could deem his surgical scar a "permanent serious disfigurement". It reversed the decision of the trial court and sent the case back to the lower court for a jury decision.