An Independence man who was injured while trying to extricate his vehicle after it slid into a ditch settled an uninsured-motorist claim with his employer’s insurer for $500,000.
The plaintiff, identified by his attorney as P.T., was injured on the morning of Feb. 16, 2015, on southbound Missouri Highway 291 and East 39th Street, according to an Independence Police Department accident report.
The driver of a 1999 Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle told police that she slid off the road after driving over an ice patch. The SUV then struck a 2011 Ford Flex, which in turn hit both P.T. and his father-in-law — the Flex driver — whom P.T. had summoned for help after his company-owned 2003 Ford F-250 pickup truck had skidded off the road. The two men were attempting to hook up a tow strap to the stranded pickup.
Plaintiff’s attorney Dan Stuart of Leawood, Kansas, said that his client sustained a blow to his head, left shoulder and left knee and was diagnosed with left shoulder impingement syndrome, which later developed into adhesive capsulitis; patelleofemoral problems of the knee; and a meniscal tear, along with post-traumatic stress disorder.
P.T. was driving a vehicle owned and insured by his employer under a commercial auto policy with United Fire and Casualty Co., Stuart said. The insurer denied an initial uninsured-motorist claim on behalf of the employee, arguing that P.T. was not “occupying” the company vehicle when he was hit, the attorney said.
Stuart countered that while the policy defined “occupying” as being “in, upon, getting in, on, out or off” of the insured vehicle, a Missouri Court of Appeals Western District ruling in Loyd v. State Auto Property & Casualty Co. cited a broader definition in which “the reason for leaving the vehicle and the claimant’s activities after leaving the vehicle are directly related” to the vehicle itself.
“As such, the term ‘occupying’ had to be liberally construed to allow coverage,” Stuart said.
P.T. initially sought the $1 million policy limits but agreed to accept half that amount during mediation.
Venue: Jackson County
Case Number/Date: Not filed/Dec. 10, 2018
Mediator: Richard Modin
Plaintiff’s Experts: John Spiridigliozzi, Psychological Resources, Lawrence, Kansas (medical-psychological); Terry Cordray, Rehabilitation Expertise LLC, Shawnee, Kansas (vocational); Mark Erwin, Spectrum Economics, Overland Park, Kansas (accounting/damages/economics)
Special damages: $99,624 in past medical bills; $117,850 in future medical bills
Insurer: United Fire and Casualty Co.
Caption: P.T. v. United Fire and Casualty Co.
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Daniel Stuart and Charles Edgeller, Law Office of Daniel E. Stuart, Leawood, Kansas