Deadly Motor Vehicle Collisions Serve as a Reminder to Review and Upgrade Your Automobile Bodily Injury, Uninsured and Underinsured Policy Coverage Limits

A horrible tragedy occurred early Sunday morning January 9, 2011 at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Federal Avenue in Los Angeles. According to media reports, a 2006 Honda Accord driven by an 81 year old female motorist accelerated out of control as she attempted to parallel park along a curb. The elderly motorist’s vehicle raced down Federal Avenue, passed through an intersection and an entire block before running a red light at the intersection with Santa Monica Boulevard. There, she caused a t-bone collision with a 25 year old female driver in a 2002 Lexus. The brutal force of the impact hurled the Lexus across the intersection and sidewalk where it struck a 51 year old pedestrian and a 1997 Toyota Pathfinder before finally coming to rest alongside a Shell service station. The accident claimed the lives of the 25 year old female Lexus driver and the 51 year old pedestrian. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the grieving family and friends of the two persons killed and the others injured in this incident.

At Aitken * Aitken * Cohn, we specialize in handling wrongful death and products liability matters similar to the catastrophic incident described above. In successfully handling these types of cases, it is very important for our experts and investigators to begin work at the earliest possible opportunity. In doing so, we are better able to examine and preserve evidence and testimony to identify and rule out potential causes of an incident. In the case above, investigation must be made into any of the defendant driver’s claims of sudden acceleration in her 2006 Honda Accord. As state liaison counsel in the nationwide Toyota litigation, our office has considerable insight into the issue of sudden unintended acceleration.

The age and infirmity of the 81 year old female driver is also an issue. Further investigation may reveal that she mistook the accelerator for the brake pedal. A similar type of incident occurred at the Santa Monica Market on July 16, 2003. On that date an 86 year old male driver killed 9 people when he drove through a crowded farmers’ market held on a public street.

In the event that a defendant driver is the sole party responsible for a collision, his or her underlying insurance policy may be the only source of recovery for the victims to the incident. The injuries suffered by victims and their families are made all the more difficult when recovery is limited to a minimal insurance policy amount. To better protect oneself in the event of an accident it is important to review your own automobile insurance liability coverage limits as well as those of your family members and friends.

The amount of one’s automobile insurance coverage limits are a personal economic decision. Generally speaking, it is good practice to have the highest coverage limits you can afford to cover the total value of all of your assets. Sufficient coverage will hopefully prevent accident victims from looking to the insured for additional contribution. Significant cost savings may also be achieved by purchasing a limited underlying automobile policy amount and an umbrella policy which provides a larger coverage amount if necessary. It is important to speak to your insurance agent to make sure that the bodily injury coverage limits match the uninsured and underinsured policy limits. It is also important to verify that any umbrella policy extends coverage for bodily injury, uninsured and underinsured motorist claims.

What is underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage? All insurance policies issued in California covering liability arising from motor vehicle use include uninsured and underinsured coverage for bodily injury with coverage limits that are at least equal to the limits of liability for bodily injury in the underlying policy. When an injured person suffers bodily injury caused by a person who also has insurance, but for an amount less than the uninsured motorist limits carried on the motor vehicle of the injured person, the insurance policy of the injured person will cover the difference. See California Insurance Code Section 11580.2. For this reason it is critical that you do not waive your right to have your uninsured/underinsured coverage limits match the underlying bodily injury policy amount. Many insurance companies offer lower premiums if their insureds agree in a written waiver to the mandatory minimum uninsured/underinsured coverage limits required under California law. Do not be fooled! These savings are de minimis and you will regret having signed such a waiver in the event you find yourself looking for other sources of recovery following a catastrophic accident.

If you have questions or concerns about your insurance, feel free to give us a call. Or, contact you insurance agent to assure you have adequate underinsured/uninsured motorist insurance coverage in place to protect you and your loved ones. Contact Us

Michael A. Penn