Winning Against Substandard Auto Insurers: Who Is a “Resident” Under an Auto Policy?
Part 2 in a 3 Part series of substandard auto insurers. Part 1 can be found here.
Case 1: Perez Sanchez v Delphi Insurance Company - The insurer denied our client’s uninsured motorist injury claim. They took the position that she was not a “resident” of her mother’s household and thus not a covered insured. We took the case to trial and won.
Our 25-year-old client was walking in a crosswalk when she was struck by an uninsured SUV that fled the scene. This young lady suffered multiple traumas, including a closed head injury with loss of consciousness and vomiting at the scene. She had ongoing treatment for her injuries.
The SUV driver had no insurance or assets. Our client was a non-driver, which meant she had no automobile insurance. Because both the at-fault driver and our client had no automobile insurance, the attorneys at Blumenshine Law Group (BLG) had to go beyond the typical liability claim against the at-fault driver’s insurer for monetary recovery.
Uninsured Motorist Claim Filed
To secure our client compensation, we filed an uninsured motorist claim against the automobile insurance policy carried by our client’s mother. The claim, however, was denied by Delphi Insurance Casualty Company (“Delphi”). This company and other substandard automobile insurance companies typically insure high-risk drivers and provide minimal ($25,000) policy limits.
Delphi Insurance Position
Delphi took the position that our client did not qualify as an “insured” under her mother’s automobile policy. Specifically, Delphi argued that our client had to be a “resident” of her mother’s household in order to be insured under the policy. Our client, who had a serious head injury, provided her boyfriend’s address to the police investigating the incident, the paramedics on scene, and the hospital to which she was taken. She told us, however, that she also lived with her mother. We worked to develop the facts that supported our position that our client had two residences - with one being her mother’s home.
The Facts Prevail
BLG presented the facts and the law to the Court on what constitutes a “resident” under uninsured motorist policies in Illinois. We uncovered and proved the following facts: our client maintained her bedroom and personal belongings at her mother’s house, she kept her mother’s address for her mail and bank accounts, she received bills and bank statements at her mother’s address, and she had her mother’s address on her state identification.
We then proceeded to establish the applicable law in court. First, the law in Illinois allows individuals to have multiple residences. This is important in the case of children as it can make or break coverage - especially for students not living at home full time and children whose parents are separated that split time between two households. Second, Illinois courts require the insurance policy to define policy terms. In policies where a term is not specifically defined, courts will define the policy term strictly against the insurer and liberally in favor of the insured.
The courts take a fact-specific approach in determining an individual’s residence. When the insurance company fails to define the term “resident” in its policy, as Delphi did here, the term will be construed in favor of the potential insured.
Delphi solely relied on our injured client’s statements at the scene and the hospital as conclusive proof that she was not a resident of her parent’s household, and therefore was not entitled to uninsured motorist coverage for the collision. Delphi failed to take into account the broad legal definition of “residence.”
At the conclusion of the trial, the Court ruled in favor of our client and against Delphi. The Court held that BLG’s client was insured under the Delphi policy as a resident of her mother’s household, and was therefore entitled to uninsured motorist coverage. (See court order). Thus, BLG secured the full policy limits of our client’s uninsured motorist coverage in the face of the insurance company denial. This was a hard fought but ultimately satisfying victory.
Continue to part 3