Articles Posted in Insurance

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In Rhode Island, all motorists are required by law to maintain a certain amount of auto insurance on their vehicles. Under Rhode Island General Laws section 31-31-7, motorists must obtain liability insurance of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. In addition, motorists must obtain $25,000 worth of insurance per accident for property damage. Liability and property damage insurance protects the policyholder in the event that they cause a Rhode Island car accident by covering the costs incurred by victims of the accident. However, it is estimated that 17% of Rhode Island drivers do not maintain sufficient insurance on their vehicles.

If someone is involved in an accident that was caused by another motorist’s negligence, the at-fault motorist will be responsible for any injuries suffered by the accident victims. However, if the at-fault motorist does not have insurance, the accident victim will only be able to pursue a claim against the driver, who may not have the assets to compensate the injury victim adequately. This is where uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) protection comes into play.

Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Protection in Rhode Island

Under a UIM policy, a policyholder is protected from accidents caused by an at-fault motorist who either has no insurance or does not have sufficient insurance to fully compensate the policyholder for the damages caused by the accident.

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Unless you are a lawyer, you probably don’t think about the specific procedures for filing a lawsuit. While you should always work with a knowledgeable Rhode Island insurance attorney if you are considering suing an insurance company, it can also be helpful to understand some of the procedural rules surrounding the case. A recent case heard by the Federal District Court of Rhode Island discusses these procedural requirements.

Jurisdiction

In order for a court to hear a case, they must have jurisdiction over the matter and the parties. Typically, claims related to insurance or personal injury are heard in state court. However, the case may be removed to federal court if certain conditions are met. One of the ways that a case may be eligible to be heard in federal court is through diversity jurisdiction.

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The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that discusses when an arbitration award is allowed to stand. This is important for accident victims because many insurance policies include an arbitration provision. Arbitration may be required instead of traditional judicial proceedings under your policy. The difference between traditional legal remedies and arbitration is that generally arbitrations have more relaxed rules and are more informal. However, the most notable difference as shown by this case is that it is much more difficult to appeal an arbitration award than it is to appeal a judge’s verdict. In fact, that is one of the selling points of arbitration since the case comes to a final conclusion much sooner and thus it is usually much less expensive than traditional litigation. Even though arbitration is less formal than courtroom proceedings, it is still important to hire a knowledgeable Rhode Island insurance attorney to handle your case.

Facts of the Case

An employee of the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) was driving her employer’s vehicle when she got into an accident. The other driver was determined to be at fault. Since Rhode Island is a fault state, the driver who is responsible for the accident is required to pay damages to the other driver.

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This summer, a plaintiff appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court a bench trial judgment for defendant, GEICO, in an underinsured motorist (UM) insurance case. Plaintiff was injured after leaving her car to provide aid to victims of a car crash. The state high court held that the plaintiff was entitled to UM coverage under the vehicle’s policy in light of Rhode Island insurance law requiring her to provide aid.

Before trial, the parties both filed for judgment as a matter of law, arguing that the only issue was whether the plaintiff was “occupying” her car at the time of the injury and that there were no genuine issues of material fact. Defendant argued that the plaintiff could not recover based on the unequivocal language of GEICO’s policy. Plaintiff argued that she was covered due to the broad definition of “occupying” outlined by the Rhode Island Supreme Court in General Accident Insurance Co. of America v. Olivier.

The trial judge analyzed “occupying” based on the four prong test in Olivier, but ultimately concluded the plaintiff didn’t prove a causal connection between her insured car and her injuries. Thus, the trial judge held that the plaintiff couldn’t recover UM benefits because the first Olivier prong wasn’t satisfied. Plaintiff appealed.

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In a recent Rhode Island case, the state supreme court had to decide whether a defendant was entitled to an annuity policy.

Plaintiff appealed from a Superior Court judgment in favor of Defendant, the beneficiary of an Amica Insurance Company annuity policy created by the plaintiff’s great-uncle and the defendant’s brother. This Rhode Island insurance law case came before the state’s Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause as to why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. After considering the parties’ written and oral submissions and reviewing the record, the Rhode Island Supreme Court concluded that cause had not been shown and that the case could be decided without further briefing or argument.

Among other assets accumulated during his twenty-five-year career with the Providence Police Department and subsequent twenty-five years as a security officer for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the great-uncle owned two Amica annuity policies. At the time of his death, one account was valued at approximately $360,000 and the other at $20,000; only the larger account is the subject of this appeal. The two annuities were opened approximately a decade apart and each named the great-uncle’s sister as the primary beneficiary. After the sister’s death in 2002, the great-uncle executed two change-of-beneficiary forms naming the defendant, his younger sister, as the beneficiary of both policies.

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Losing a loved one in a fatal accident is one of the most sudden and devastating experiences that can happen to you in your lifetime. At Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, we have assisted many Rhode Island individuals with understanding their rights following the loss of a loved one. Our Rhode Island wrongful death lawyers understand that no amount of compensation will truly make you and your family whole again, but it can assist you with offsetting the financial pressure that results from the accident.

A Rhode Island appellate court recently issued an appellate opinion in a wrongful death action in which a motorcyclist tragically lost his life. The motorcyclist was traveling on the highway when a barrel fell from a passing truck and became lodged in his front tire. The rider was thrown from the motorcycle into the oncoming traffic lane, where he was hit by another vehicle. The rider died as a result of his injuries.

The rider had an insurance policy for the motorcycle that did not provide uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. He owned a separate policy, however, that did provide UM coverage, but it contained an exclusion stating that it would not provide UM coverage for injuries sustained by the insured while occupying or when struck by another vehicle owned by the insured that is not insured under the policy. Occupying was defined in the policy to include in or getting in, on, out of, or off.

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