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Ohio Court of Appeals Says that Personal Insurer, Rather than Businessowners' Insurance Carrier, Was Liable for Auto Accident

September 6, 2018

Being involved in a Cleveland automobile accident can  be  complicated enough without getting in the middle of a fight among multiple insurance companies about which one should pay for the damages you've suffered as a result of the accident.Unfortunately, when this happens, one or more insurance companies deny responsibility and point fingers at the other(s). Meanwhile, you,   the injured person, receives nothing until the case is concluded, sometimes years later.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered by Ohio's Eighth District Court of Appeals( Cuyahoga County) , the plaintiff was  injured in 2011 while traveling from Akron to Mayfield Heights. He was  a passenger riding in a car driven and owned by someone with whom the plaintiff had a business relationship. In fact, they were both involved in the same businesses. The defendant driver was scheduled to make a business presentation, and the plaintiff went along "out of curiosity." In short, he wasn't acting as an employee at the time of the accident, which happened after the defendant hit a patch of ice and lost control of his vehicle.

The case revolved around whether the driver's personal auto insurance, the passenger's personal insurance or the company's insurance should apply.  The insurance companies didn't argue that the passenger wasn't injured or that he wasn't entitled to compensation. They simply didn't want to pay for it. Multiple claims were filed, including a negligence suit by the plaintiff passenger against the defendant driver. Several declaratory judgment actions were brought by different insurance companies arguing that they shouldn't have to pay for the passenger's injuries and damages. Three separate insurance companies sought summary judgment, with each arguing that the other company or companies were responsible to provide coverage.  The trial court reviewed all of the insurance policies and decided that the business owner's policy did not apply but  that the accident was covered under the passenger's certain personal auto liability insurance policy . The insurance companies then appealed to the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals which finally decided the case in  2018.

Decision of the Court

The appellate court agreed with the trial court, concluding that the trial court ruled properly in holding that the insurance company that provided business owners' coverage for non-owned automobiles was not obligated to cover the plaintiff passenger's damages because he was not an employee at the time of the accident. In so holding, the appellate court noted that, although the plaintiff passenger had filed a claim for workers' compensation after the accident, his claim had been denied on the ground that he was not an employee of any of the companies in which he and the defendant motorist were involved. But fortunately for the passenger, the  court also ruled that the insurance company that provided his personal automobile liability coverage had to pay his claim. And it only took the poor injured party seven years to get to that point!

Speak to a Cleveland Injury Lawyer

Being injured in a car accident can cause not only pain and disability but great financial strain. The legal issues may be anything but simple. If you or a loved one has been hurt due to someone else's negligent driving, you need a lawyer standing up for your rights - preferably from day one. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Ohio car accident lawyer, call Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., today at 216-696-4006. Most cases are accepted on a contingency fee contract, so legal fees are not collected until your case is resolved.

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