A couple injured in a crash caused by an uninsured driver can collect from two insurance policies, both their own and the one that covered the vehicle they were riding in, the South Dakota Supreme Court said its ruling.
The high court’s unanimous decision follows similar rulings in past cases involving insurance-policy limits that apply to coverage for damages caused by uninsured motorists.
Joseph and Peggy Hockett were injured in October 2003 in a Gregory County crash caused by Glenn LaPointe, who had no insurance. Joseph Hockett was driving a vehicle owned by his daughter, Rebecca.
The Hocketts each collected $100,000 from Rebecca’s insurance policy, which provided uninsured-motorist coverage up to $100,000 per person or $300,000 per accident. They also sought to collect benefits from their own automobile policy with AMCO Insurance Co., which carried uninsured-motorist coverage of $50,000 per person or $100,000 per accident.
However, AMCO denied the claim, arguing that South Dakota law does not allow such claims from more than one insurance policy to exceed the coverage limits that generally apply to uninsured-motorist provisions.
South Dakota law requires that automobile insurance policies must provide coverage for damages caused by uninsured motorists. That uninsured-motorist coverage must equal the liability coverage in a policy up to the maximum of $100,000 per person or $300,000 per accident, but the holder of a policy can opt to have additional coverage for uninsured motorists.
AMCO argued that state law limits total recovery to $100,000 per person or $300,000 per accident when two or more policies are involved.
But the Supreme Court said the law defines a policy’s coverage, and it is not a limit on recovery.
That means the Hocketts can recover from both insurance policies, and total benefits can exceed $100,000 per person, the high court said.
However, an insurance policy could include language that would limit total recovery in such cases, the justices said.
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