No Insurance Coverage in South Dakota Crash That Hurt 4 Boys

By CHET BROKAW | April 22, 2013

An insurance company does not have to cover a Rapid City woman for a crash because her policy expired 12 hours before she hit four boys on their bicycles, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Tamara Bradford pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular battery for the September 2007 crash and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Authorities said her blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit for driving when she hit and injured the boys, who were riding their bicycles or standing along the road.

After a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the boys, Alpha Property and Casualty Insurance Co. declined to cover Bradford for the crash.

The Supreme Court said Bradford’s insurance policy had expired just after midnight on Sept. 23, 2007, about 12 hours before the crash, because she had failed to pay a premium due the day before the accident.

Robin Zephier, a Rapid City lawyer representing the boys, said he will talk with his clients about a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said Bradford has cooperated in the case in an attempt to get insurance coverage to help pay the boys’ medical expenses.

Zephier said he had hoped the South Dakota court would recognize an Ohio ruling that would have allowed the policy to be in effect the entire day of Sept. 23, rather than just for one minute after midnight.

“Insurance policies need to be more consumer-friendly when it comes down to giving a person the benefit of a doubt,” Zephier said.

A lawyer for Alpha Property and Casualty did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Bradford got an automobile insurance policy in March 2007 with an expiration date of Sept. 23. The insurance company sent her a renewal notice in September saying her policy would expire at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 23 if she did not make a payment.

Bradford had argued the insurance policy was ambiguous and she had until the day after the accident to pay the premium because the expiration date was a Sunday.

However, the Supreme Court said the insurance documents clearly indicated the expiration date. The justices said South Dakota law did not give Bradford an extra day to pay the premium.

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