Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Favor of Plaintiffs in Uninsured Motorist Car Accident Claim

As seasoned Chicago car accident lawyers, we often deal with insurance companies that provide insurance coverage to the parties involved in an accident. Although there are some instances in which an insurance company will comply with the terms of its policy, there are far too many other instances in which the company refuses to play fair, to the detriment of the victim. A recent lawsuit demonstrates the challenges that insurance companies can cause in a car accident lawsuit.

In 2008, the plaintiffs were involved in an accident with a rental car that had been stolen from a rental agency. At the time of the crash, the plaintiff’s vehicle was insured. The car rental company denied coverage on the basis that its vehicle had been stolen, so the plaintiff sought coverage through the uninsured motorist provision of her policy. The coverage contained an arbitration clause providing that any dispute regarding the amount of coverage provided must be handled in arbitration. After the accident, the plaintiff’s lawyer sent a letter to the insurance carrier, stating that she demanded compensation under the uninsured motorist provision. It specifically made a demand for an arbitration proceeding if the claim was not resolved within two years of the date of the accident. The policy also included a provision barring any arbitration or lawsuits against the company more than two years after the date of the collision. The attorney sent two additional letters, and eventually, the insurer rejected the plaintiff’s request for uninsured motorist coverage. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit, alleging breach of contract and bad faith.

The insurer responded, seeking a declaration that there was no coverage available under the policy and alleging that the plaintiffs failed to commence arbitration within two years of the accident and that they failed to select an arbitrator and demand arbitration. The plaintiffs moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted it, finding that the lawyers’ conduct and letters satisfied the request for arbitration requirement. It also rejected the insurer’s argument that the plaintiff’s failure to select an arbitrator within two years affected the viability of their coverage claim.

The insurance company appealed, and the reviewing court reversed the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor. In reaching this conclusion, the appellate court noted the specific language of the plaintiffs’ letters to the insurance company. The language was a contingent demand for arbitration in the event the dispute was not settled, and because of this language, the focus of the letters was on settling the dispute and not making a demand for arbitration. The court also noted that some of the letters were sent outside the two-year timeframe and therefore were ineffective.

If you are dealing with an insurance company following an uninsured motorist accident or believe that you may be entitled to compensation, it is critical that you consult a reliable and dedicated Illinois personal injury lawyer. At Therman Law Offices, our seasoned team of litigators has handled many insurance company disputes and fights vigorously to ensure that our clients receive the fair treatment that they deserve from insurers. We offer a free consultation to help you learn more about your legal rights and how we might be able to help you obtain compensation. Call us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to get started.

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