California Court of Appeal Sides with Insurer in High Speed Car Accident Case

The California Court of Appeals, for the 4th District, recently issued an opinion in a car accident case that sheds some light of the conception of what a “single accident” means for purposes of car insurance policy limits.

In the case, Mercury Casualty Co.v. Jones, Cal. Ct. App., 4th Dist. (2014), the plaintiff was involved in a serious car accident. The parties agreed that the following things were accurate. The car involved in the accident was owned by Kari Amaya, and she had an insurance policy with Mercury, which had bodily injury liability limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Ashley Amaya was listed as an insured driver.

On the day of the accident, Ashley gave permission for Carla Hurtado to drive the car, which therefore qualified as sufficient for coverage for the purposes of the car insurance policy. The plaintiff was a passenger in the back seat of the car. Hurtado was driving at around 85 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone on the freeway when one of the car’s tires blew out. She unsafely turned the vehicle, causing it to flip. The officer who later investigated the accident found that the blown out tire had less than 1/32 of an inch of tread left on it. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries in the car accident and incurred over $200,000 in medical bills as a result.

Therefore, Jones challenged the application of the policy to the incident and claimed that actually two accidents had occurred. The first one was the negligent maintenance of the car, and the second was the negligent driving that led to the accident itself. Her argument hinged on the separate acts of negligence amounting to separate and independent causes of the accident.

The trial court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments:

“The tire blew. The car flipped. And somebody was injured. . . . That is an accident. [¶] Now, it’s true there may be different causes. The negligence acts of the parties were concurrent in causing the accident.”

The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court. It addressed the plaintiff’s arguments regarding other car accidents in which separate causation and separate incidents were more plausible, and it stated that even those cases were ruled a singular accident for car insurance policy purposes.

The purpose of having limitations on car insurance policies is so that the car insurance company can anticipate its liability and price policies accordingly. While it was incredibly unfortunate that the plaintiff suffered injuries and medical bills in excess of the policy’s limitations, that does not change the limits themselves.

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to understand your rights so that you can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. The lawyers at Sharifi Firm, APC have significant experience in handling car accident cases throughout California.  If you have been involved in a car accident, contact us today for a free consultation. We can be reached through this website, or by calling 1 (866) 422-7222

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Sides With Hospital in Fall Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 10, 2015

Federal Court Clarifies Meaning of Use for Terms of Insurance Coverage in California Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 6, 2015

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