Connecticut Underinsured Motorist Claims: Challenges and Advice

How Not Complying with Your Policy's Provision Could Result in the Dismissal of Your Case

By, Richard P. Hastings, Connecticut Attorney

The Connecticut Appellate Court will officially release the case of Dolly Romprey, et al v. Safeco Insurance Company of America next week. This case highlights the pitfalls of the complexity of the law of underinsured motorist cases in Connecticut.

In Romprey, the Plaintiff was involved in an accident on November 16, 2004, which was caused by the fault of a third party. The Plaintiff settled with the third party's insurance company for, ostensibly, the policy limit of $25,000. Ms. Romprey was insured at the time of the accident by the Defendant, Safeco Insurance, for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

In two letters sent to Safeco in December of 2005 and February of 2006, Ms. Romprey's lawyer's office provided all medical reports and medical bills they had to date. They advised the Defendant that they had exhausted all of the third party's insurance coverage, demanded arbitration and requested a copy of their client's insurance policy.

The Plaintiff commenced suit in February of 2008 more than three years after the accident. The Defendant moved for summary judgment, in effect a motion for a judgment in favor of the insurance company, against their insured.

In the present case, the relevant language of the insurance policy states: "All claims or suits under [the uninsured and underinsured motorist provisions] of this policy must be brought within three years of the date of the accident. However, in the case of a claim involving an underinsured more vehicle, the insured may toll any applicable limitation period by: "1. Notifying us prior to expiration of the three year period, in writing, of any claim the insured may have for Underinsured Motorist Coverage; and 2. Commencing suit or arbitration proceedings not more than 180 days from the date of exhaustion of the limits of liability under all automobile bodily injury bonds or policies applicable at the time of the accident by settlements or final judgments after any appeals."

The trial court granted the Defendant's motion due to its finding that the Plaintiff had failed to submit evidence to establish the two proofs of the tolling provision. This appeal  ensued and the Appellate Court held that:

  1. The Plaintiff did not demonstrate that the claim involved an underinsured motorist claim because they did not offer sufficient proof that the third party's insurance policy had been exhausted, a prerequisite to an underinsured motorist claim; and
  2. The Plaintiff did not notify the Defendant, prior to three years from the date of the accident, of their claim for an underinsured motorist claim.

Despite the fact that the Plaintiff argued various theories of law involving providing notice within the three year policy period, the tolling of the three year period by making a demand for arbitration and a claim involving breach of the insurance contract, the Appellate Court sided with the Insurance Company.

This case underscores the prerequisite to strictly adhering to insurance policy provisions and emphasizes the need to be ever vigilant in how your insurance  claim is developed, which if it is not followed to the letter of the law, could result in the dismissal of your case.

Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state.  He is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut"; and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents."