Practice Areas | Insurance Coverage
Insurance coverages – and insurance coverage disputes – come in many shapes and sizes. The insurance coverage issues we typically handle fall into two categories. The first is uninsured and underinsured motorist claims. The second involves coverage denials – where the insurer recognizes that there was or is an insurance policy, but claims that it is not obligated to pay at all. The denial may be based upon policy language, the factual circumstances surrounding the claim, failure to pay insurance premiums, etc.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Unfortunately, many in Montana drive with little or no insurance coverage – which means that they have little or no ability to pay when they negligently injure others. But your own automobile policy, the policy covering the vehicle in which you are a passenger, or both, may provide you with the additional coverage you need:
Uninsured motorist coverage insures you against injury by someone who has no automobile insurance. The insurer “steps into the shoes” of the uninsured driver and – depending upon your injuries and damages – will pay up to whatever policy limits you've purchased just as if the uninsured driver had been insured for that amount at the time of the accident.
Underinsured motorist coverage insures you against injury by someone who has automobile insurance, but doesn’t have enough to fully compensate you for your injuries and damages. Your insurer then “steps into the shoes” of the underinsured driver and – depending upon your injuries and damages – will pay up to your policy limits just as if the negligent driver had been insured for that amount at the time of the accident.
Medical Payments Coverage – Commonly referred to as “med-pay.” Med-pay coverage pays medical expenses up to the amount of the coverage for each person in the med-pay insured vehicle, regardless of fault. These limits are usually in amounts of $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000. Med-pay benefits typically do not have to be repaid where the negligent driver's insurance pays damages.
Stacking Insurance Coverage – Uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage and medical payments coverage (discussed below) are generally "stackable" under Montana law. “Stacking” permits a person to add similar insurance coverages together, either by accessing multiple vehicles under one policy or multiple vehicles under several policies. For example, a person who purchases $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage for five separate vehicles under five separate policies can potentially collect up to $500,000 in uninsured motorist benefits for the same accident.
Whether your policies permit stacking is a matter of policy language and Montana law, and often very fact-intensive. Bring your policies to a lawyer.
Fights Over Coverage & Coverage Disputes
Oftentimes, an insurer will deny payment of benefits because the claimant’s injury is not “covered.” It may not be covered because the policy was canceled prior to the accident. It may not be covered because the insurer claims that the policy’s “exclusions” state that your particular claim (or the claim of someone against you). falls outside of coverage. .
When that happens, you have several actions. You can file a declaratory judgment action againt your insurer to establish coverage (or, if your insurer has already filed an action, counter-claim for coverage and make your case). Whenever an insurer denies coverage for a liability claim and refuses to extend a defense of its insured, the insured might be empowered to entered into what is known as a "consent judgment," together with a covenant not to execute, and assign their rights against the insurer to the adverse party.
Determining whether an insurer has properly denied coverage is an fact-intensive and technical inquiry that requires expertise and experience beyond the general practitioner. We have that experience. How good are we? Well, we got coverage for a car accident under a helicopter policy, if that's what you're asking. XL Speciality Ins. Co. v. Patrol Helicopters & Progressive Casualty Ins. Co., 411 Fed.Appx. 78 (9th Cir. 2011) (as counsel for Patrol Helicopters, Inc.).