California Appellate Court Affirms No Evidence of Contact by Phantom Vehicle Supporting Uninsured Motorist Claim After Rear-End Collision

After rear-ending another vehicle that had been stopped, an insured individual sought uninsured motorist benefits from his car insurer.  The insurer denied his claim, and the arbitrator denied damages to the appellant.  The appellant petitioned the trial court to vacate the arbitration award, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed the court’s denial of his petition, finding it was not an appealable order.  Specifically, the appellate court turned to California law, which requires that physical contact support an uninsured motorist claim after a Southern California car accident involving allegations of a phantom vehicle.

The appellant in this case argued that he had been hit from behind and pushed into the vehicle in front of him.  He argued that the vehicle that struck him had left the scene immediately.  The insurer argued no evidence supported his position he had been pushed into the vehicle in front.

The insurance company inspected the appellant’s vehicle for repairs, which were estimated to total approximately $7,000.  The front of the vehicle sustained damage, and there was no damage listed to the rear bumper or trunk.  Photographs supported the estimate that the damage focused on the front end of the vehicle.

The arbitrator determined that California law requires physical contact to support an uninsured motorist claim involving a “phantom” vehicle.  During arbitration, the appellant had not met his burden of proof in showing that there had been contact by this phantom vehicle.  The appellant was not awarded damages, and he filed a petition to vacate this contractual arbitration award.

The trial court denied this petition to vacate. They found the appellant had not provided evidence of fraud, corruption, or undue means in procuring the arbitration award.  The appellant filed a notice of appeal.

The court held that California law provides that aggrieved parties can appeal from orders dismissing petitions to confirm, correct, or vacate awards. There is no appeal from orders denying vacation or correction of arbitration awards.  Here, the order from which the appellant appealed is one that denied his petition to vacate the arbitration award.  The court stated they did not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

The court also added that the appellant had not demonstrated extraordinary circumstances that warranted a review of the denial of his petition to vacate the award before the entry of a final judgment.  Here, he did not request that the court treat the appeal as a petition for writ of mandate, nor did he explain why he lacked a remedy through appealing a judgment confirming the arbitration award.  The court also stated that the state Supreme Court has required that the power of writ review be used in cases involving compelling evidence of “unusual circumstances.”

The court dismissed the appeal.

At Sharifi Firm, our car accident attorneys are skilled in the procedural and substantive laws involved in automobile accident claims.  Throughout Southern California, we help injured individuals and others suffering harm due to the negligence or reckless conduct of others.  To schedule a free consultation with a dedicated car accident lawyer, call our office at 866-422-7222 or reach us online.

More Blog Posts:

California Appeals Court Upholds Rule that Insurance Agent Owed No Duty to Advise Plaintiffs to Purchase Excess Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance to Help Recover Costs from Son’s Accident, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, February 3, 2017

California Appellate Court Rejected Car Owner’s Claim that Insurance Company Breached Duty By Repairing Vehicle and Not Compensating for Decline in Value After Vehicle Accident, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 5, 2016

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