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An injured passenger in a motor vehicle accident is entitled to both liability coverage and UIM benefits from the same policy.

July 1, 2017
Tillison v. GEICO Secure Ins. Co., 2017 Del. Super. LEXIS 240 (Del. Super. Ct. May 15, 2017)

The plaintiff Tillison was injured in an auto accident while he was a passenger in a vehicle operated by the defendant Alexander, who was insured under an automobile policy with GEICO that provided $20,000 per person coverage for both liability and UIM coverage. GEICO paid Tillison $20,000 in liability coverage. Tillison sought the UIM benefits as well. However, the GEICO policy expressly excluded “insured auto” (the vehicle in which the plaintiff was traveling) under its definition of uninsured motor vehicle. The GEICO policy also excluded coverage for “[b]odily injury sustained by an insured while occupying, or through being struck by an uninsured motor vehicle owned by an insured.” GEICO filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the policy clearly prohibited the plaintiff from recovering both bodily injury and UIM benefits from Alexander’s policy. GEICO argued that the UIM statute’s purpose is to protect against other vehicles on the roadway. The plaintiff asserted that the court had previously found similar language void as inconsistent with 18 Del. C. §3902 and underlying public policy. The court found that Delaware’s UIM statute “[m]akes no distinction based upon the number of vehicles or insurance policies involved in a collision. Rather, the statute defines an underinsured motor vehicle relative to the victim’s injuries.” The court explained that the plaintiff was the victim of another’s negligence and that restrictions on UIM coverage are to be narrowly construed. Finding no support from the General Assembly for GEICO’s position, the court denied summary judgment but encouraged GEICO to “[p]ursue legislative clarification of this situation.”


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2017

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