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Reasonable Expectations Doctrine Requires UIM/UM Coverage at Full Limits

April 19, 2024

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In Motil v. Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company, the Appellate Division recently shed some light on the novel issue of whether an individual is entitled to UIM coverage as a “covered driver” injured in a car accident while driving a “covered vehicle” with an identified alternate garaging address under the parents’ auto policy.


The parties then cross-moved for summary judgment, and the judge subsequently granted the Plaintiff’s motion, ordering the defendant to provide $100,000.00 in UIM coverage and denied the defendant’s motion. The defendant appealed and the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision on April 5, 2024.


The plaintiff sustained serious bodily injuries in an automobile accident while driving a 2014 Jeep Cherokee owned by her father, Charles Motil. Plaintiff settled with the tortfeasor for the policy limit of $15,000.00. The plaintiff requested UIM coverage from the defendant, but coverage was denied on the grounds that plaintiff was a non-resident family member, and therefore was subject to the limit of liability step-down provision in the UM coverage endorsement of her parent’s policy, which was $15/$30k, making the limits equal to the tortfeasor limits. Wausau further claimed that plaintiff was neither a named insured nor a family member within the meaning of her parent’s policy and therefore not entitled to UIM benefits. The parent’s mailing address was in Bridgeton, and the plaintiff was named in the declaration as a covered driver under “driver information” and memorialized that the Jeep had an alternate garaging address in Blackwood.


Plaintiff then filed a declaratory judgment action seeking $100,000.00 in UIM coverage from the defendant, Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company. The parties ultimately cross-moved for summary judgment, and the judge subsequently granted the Plaintiff’s motion, ordering the defendant to provide $100,000.00 in UIM coverage and denied the defendant’s motion. The defendant appealed and the Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision on April 5, 2024.

 

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