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Tennessee Court of Appeals Holds that Uninsured Motorist Policy Did Not Preclude Prejudgment Interest

If you have never been involved in a lawsuit involving uninsured motorist insurance coverage, you might be surprised to find that the insured individual and their insurance company are in an adversarial relationship in such proceedings. In other words, in an east Tennessee car accident case, to determine the amount due an insured person who has been hurt by the negligence of an uninsured motorist, the injured person is on the opposite side of the lawsuit as his or her insurance company.

Although the case may not be styled in the case of “insured versus insurer,” the reality is that the insurance company is the real defendant in the case because it is the party who will be paying out any monies awarded to the plaintiff. It is possible that the insurance company may eventually recoup some of these funds from the party that caused the crash, but a full recovery is unlikely.

Therefore, the insurance company effectively stands in the shoes of the at-fault, uninsured motorist during the litigation of the case and may assert the same types of defenses that the motorist could have asserted had he or she been present at trial. Of course, the insurance company may have a few defenses of its own, in addition.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate court case, the plaintiff was a man who was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident in 2008. According to both the plaintiff and a witness to the accident, an unknown driver caused the crash and then left the scene. The plaintiff’s brother was the owner of the car that he was driving at the time of the accident. The brother’s vehicle was covered by a policy of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage in the amount of $50,000. In addition, the plaintiff had UM coverage with the defendant insurance company in the amount of $500,000.

The plaintiff settled with the brother’s UM carrier for policy limits. He then filed a “John Doe” lawsuit, seeking to recover UM benefits from the defendant insurer. Settlement negotiations failed, and the case proceeded to a jury trial, which resulted in a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor in the amount of $275,000. After the entry of judgment upon the jury’s verdict, the plaintiff filed a post-trial motion for prejudgment interest. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion, and he appealed.

Decision of the Appellate Tribunal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s order denying the plaintiff’s request for prejudgment interest, holding that the lower tribunal acted in error in holding that such relief was precluded under the plaintiff’s UM policy. The appellate court then remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to consider whether prejudgment interest was necessary and equitable under the specific facts of the case. In so holding, the court of appeals found that the language of the plaintiff’s UM insurance policy was sufficiently broad to include the prejudgment interest sought by the plaintiff.

Get Advice About a Knoxville Car Accident

If you have been hurt in a wreck caused by a negligent, uninsured, or underinsured motorist and need to talk to a knowledgeable car accident attorney about your case, please call the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657 or use the contact form on this website. We will be glad to explain the process of pursuing maximum UM benefits from your insurance company. In the meantime, please remember that you and your insurance company are not “on the same side” of a UM coverage case, so do not give a statement without speaking to an attorney first.

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