Court Determines Insurance Contract in Trucking Accident Was Not Ambiguous, Finding in Insurance Company’s Favor

Earlier this month, a federal court of appeals issued an opinion in a truck accident case involving a dispute between the victim’s family and the insurance company of the at-fault driver. In the case, ACE Fire Underwriters v. Romero, the court was called upon to determine the meaning of an insurance policy, and it ultimately resolved the conflict in favor of the insurance company.

Signing a ContractThe Facts of the Case

The driver of a tractor-trailer left the farm at which he worked and immediately noticed that the trailer had become detached from the truck. He made a U-turn in hopes of quickly reconnecting the trailer, but before he could do so, he was struck by another motorist. That motorist died as a result of the collision, and his family, through the executor of the deceased’s estate (Romero), sought compensation for their loss from the truck driver’s insurance policy.

Fault was not contested. However, Romero argued that the insurance contract covered up to $1 million per vehicle involved, and because there were two vehicles involved – the truck and the trailer – the total payout should be $2 million. The insurance company’s position was that the total limit for the policy was $1 million, regardless of the number of vehicles involved.

The parties entered into an agreement whereby the insurance company would pay $1 million, subject to the court’s determination of what the policy limit was. If the court determined the limit was $2 million, the agreement was that the insurance company would pay another $550,000.

The court reviewed the insurance contract, which contained two relevant portions. One was a section that said:  “The most we will ever pay for one accident or loss.” This figure was $1 million. However, there was a schedule attached listing each of the covered vehicles under the policy and the amount of coverage provided. This schedule indicated that both the truck and the trailer were each insured for $1 million. The schedule also said that if a vehicle did not have a limit next to it, the limit discussed above applied “instead.”

The court read this as consistent with the first clause, explaining that the schedule did not say that “only” the first limit would apply. The court read the contract to mean that if a vehicle did not have a number listed next to it on the schedule, it would be covered up to the $1 million total limit for the policy, but under no circumstances would the policy cover more than $1 million.

Have You Been Involved in a Maryland Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Maryland truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, as you can see, when insurance companies get involved, issues often become confusing and hard-fought. It is important that you have a dedicated attorney who understands not just accident law but also how courts interpret insurance contracts, since this may make a big difference in the total amount of compensation you could receive. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with an experienced Maryland truck accident attorney to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Traffic Laws May Bridge the Gap to Proving Legal Liability in Accidents with No Discernible Cause, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published August 3, 2016.

One Dead, Two Injured in Chain-Reaction Semi-Truck Collision on Interstate Highway, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published August 17, 2016.

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