I’ve been the victim of a motor vehicle accident and the other side doesn’t have enough insurance to cover my loses; how much time am I allotted before I must bring an underinsured motorist claim?
The state of Minnesota requires all licensed vehicles to carry, at a minimum, the following types of automobile coverage (insurance): personal injury protection, liability, underinsured coverage (UIM) and uninsured coverage (UM). UIM coverage is for “the protection of persons insured … who are legally entitled to recover damages for bodily injury from owners or operators of underinsured motor vehicles.” Minn. Stat. § 65B.43. The classic UIM claim arises when Driver A negligently causes bodily damage to Driver B. As a result, Driver B brings a claim against Driver A for payment of its damages. If Driver A’s liability coverage is insufficient to cover Driver B’s damages, Driver B may make a request for UIM payments from Driver B’s insurer.
Historically, Driver B was required to bring the UIM claim within six-years of the accident with Driver A. (UIM provisions are contract and are therefore governed by the six-year statute of limitation outlined in Minn. Stat. § 541.05.) However, the Supreme Court in Oanes v. Allstate Ins. Co., 617 N.W.2d 401, 402 (Minn. 2000) over-turned the prior standard stating that “the UIM claim becomes ripe by settlement or adjudication of the claim against the tortfeasor [Driver A]” and that therefore the six-years does not begin to run until that time. (According to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, a claim is ripe by settlement on the date the settlement agreement is enforceable, which “can precede the signing of a release.” Stroop v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, 764 N.W.2d 384, 388 (Minn. Ct. App. Apr. 21, 2009)). The Supreme Court’s landmark clarification in Oanes is important because it eliminated those situations where Driver B misses out on the opportunity to bring a UIM claim because his fight with Driver A took longer than six-years.
Please note that UM cases must still be brought within six-years of the accident. The reasoning is fairly straightforward; a UM claimant has a much smaller hurdle to clear in regards to the negligent driver. While Driver B in a UIM case must fully adjudicate or settle its claim against Driver A before seeking benefits from its insurer, Driver B in a UM case only need confirm that Driver A is uninsured. Once that confirmation is secured, Driver B can go straight to its insurer.
If you have any questions about UIM claims, UM claims or any other automobile related claim, please feel free to call or e-mail any one of our many experienced attorneys – www.hansendordell.com / 651-482-8900.